During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger reaffirmed the company’s apology to China for a letter that called out the forced labor practices of the Chinese Communist Party in the Xinjiang province. When pressed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Gelsinger doubled down on apologizing for condemning the genocide and humanitarian crimes against the Uyghur Muslim minority population.
Gelsinger was appearing before a Senate committee to speak in favor of a pending bill that would provide Intel and other semiconductor manufacturers with more than $50 billion in new federal subsidies. The taxpayer-funded grants would purportedly support domestic supply chains and improve competitiveness with China.
Scott asked Gelsinger if he intended to defend an apology his company issued to China last year for specifically identifying Xinjiang as a place where forced-labor abuses were occurring.
The CEO said that the letter was addressed to all international suppliers for his company and was intended to “manage our supply chain globally.” He maintained that the letter spoke against “forced labor or slavery” everywhere but “inappropriately included” the reference to China.
Intel’s letter to suppliers said that it was “required to ensure” that it does not import goods “from the Xinjiang region.” After backlash from Chinese propaganda outlets, Intel issued a Chinese language apology on designated Chinese social media platforms. It said that Intel apologizes for “the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers.”
Scott also asked Gelsinger about Intel’s continued production operations inside China, pointing out the comparable losses incurred by U.S. firms that have withdrawn from operations inside Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. He pointed out the risk of loss that could occur if China invades Taiwan.
Gelsinger responded by saying that the Chinese semiconductor industry makes up about half of the global market. He added that if Intel is going to be the world’s largest supplier of semiconductors, it must “participate in the largest market.”
In urging Congress to approve the subsidies through the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS for America) Act, Gelsinger said that after allowing the industry to “shift to Asia” it is time to get back “to American soil.”
The CHIPS for America Act has broad bipartisan support generally, but some lawmakers have called for amendments that would condition grants on companies ending operations in China.
Intel made $79 billion in revenue in 2021.