Intel apologizes as Biden signs Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law

Foreign Affairs

A new law will ban U.S. companies from buying anything at all from Xinjiang unless they can prove it was not made with forced labor. Intel is already dealing with the fallout.

U.S. President Joe Biden signs the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Image from Biden’s Twitter feed.

U.S. President Joe Biden today signed into law the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans all imports from Xinjiang over concerns about forced labor, unless the importer can prove the goods were produced without any worker abuses.

Cotton, tomatoes, and polysilicon used in solar-panel manufacturing are designated “high priority” for enforcement action.

  • In January, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency estimated that about $9 billion of cotton products and $10 million of tomato products had been imported from China in 2020.

Back in China, U.S. semiconductor giant Intel is trying to worm out of criticism from Chinese officials and internet users after it sent a letter to suppliers asking them to steer clear of “any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region” because of restrictions imposed by “multiple governments.’’

  • Chinese social media users were not amused. Intel responded today by telling (in Chinese) Chinese customers that the letter to suppliers was intended to express its compliance with U.S. laws rather than a political stance.
  • But Intel’s statement was met with a tepid reception on the Chinese internet: A hashtag on the topic has generated more than 250 million views on Weibo, with critics calling for a boycott. One person wrote (in Chinese): “If you want to do business in China, you need to follow Chinese rules. Stop using U.S. laws as an excuse.”
  • Wáng Jùnkǎi 王俊凯, one of China’s most famous young pop singers, terminated his brand ambassadorship with the company.