Just as American tech giants like Intel and Walmart are landing in hot water over their statements on Xinjiang, Tesla says it has opened shop in the northwestern Chinese region, where massive human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are ongoing.
On New Year's Eve, Tesla announced the opening of its first showroom in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, via its official Weibo account, kicking off its plan to expand in the region. Tesla has over 200 stores in China, according to Sina Tech. This Xinjiang showroom is its 11th in northwestern China.
Opening a store in Xinjiang could be a tricky political proposition for Tesla. On Dec. 23, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that will ban all imports from Xinjiang. Meanwhile, an increasing number of transnational companies have recently come under nationalist firestorms as well as consumer backlashes in China over products, labor or services from the region.
So far, Tesla’s new move has won it rounds of applause on Weibo. Many Chinese web users praise Tesla for supporting the Xinjiang region by opening up shop there, comparing it with Intel, which had asked suppliers to not source from the region, and Walmart, which got dragged into a social media showdown last week after social users accused the American retailer’s Chinese stores of not stocking items made in Xinjiang. But others are wary about Tesla’s new plan, warning that the American EV maker might use civil-military integrated technology to obtain secrets on behalf of the U.S. military. The U.S. government has previously made similar accusations against Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and ZTE.