US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has threatened the government funding of chipmaker Intel after the company made what Rubio described as “humiliating apologies” to China.
Intel issued apologies to its Chinese partners and the Chinese public last December after it noted in a routine letter to suppliers that it would not use “labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.” This stipulation is required by US law as part of trading sanctions against China for its ongoing persecution of the Xinjiang region’s Uyghur population (which the US government has designated a genocide). Intel’s letter to suppliers, though, went viral in China, and caused a huge public backlash against the company.
As first reported by The Verge last year, Intel not only issued public apologies but also deleted all references to Xinjiang on its website. When asked about this deletion, Intel’s senior director of corporate comms, William Moss, told The Verge: “We amended some language based on concerns from stakeholders to focus on broadly and globally applicable principles and policies, consistent with our general practice.”
In response to Intel’s actions, Rubio issued a statement on Monday:
“Intel’s cowardice is yet another predictable consequence of economic reliance on China. Instead of humiliating apologies and self-censorship, companies should move their supply chains to countries that do not use slave labor or commit genocide. If companies like Intel continue to obscure the facts about US law just to appease the Chinese Communist Party then they should be ineligible for any funding under the CHIPS Act.”
The CHIPS Act is a reaction to the global shortage of semiconductors and the United States’ dwindling ability to manufacture these vital components. CHIPS was enacted last year as part of the annual military funding bill (the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA), with the Senate authorizing $52 billion in federal investments to go to “domestic semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing provisions.” However, that funding is only speculative as of right now, as despite broad bipartisan backing the legislation is currently stalled in Congress. That means Rubio’s threat to Intel is, itself, only hypothetical.