Tesla's Musk hails China's 'vitality' during Beijing visit

Mr. Musk "expressed full confidence in the China market.

June 01, 2023 03:38 am | Updated 03:38 am IST - Beijing

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China on May 31, 2023.

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China on May 31, 2023. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Elon Musk praised China's "vitality and promise" on Wednesday, Beijing said, during a trip to the Chinese capital in which he has met multiple government officials and reportedly declared he will expand his business there.

The mercurial tycoon, one of the world's richest men, is on his first trip to China in more than three years.

He met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on Wednesday, praising "the vitality and potential of China's development", according to a ministry readout.

Mr. Musk "expressed full confidence in the China market, and was willing to continue deepening mutually beneficial cooperation", a readout of the meeting said.

He also said that "China-U.S. relations are not a zero-sum game", it added, and thanked China for "the support and guarantees it provided for Tesla's Shanghai factory during the COVID-19 pandemic", when it was placed under strict lockdowns.

Mr. Musk has extensive business interests in China and told Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday his firm was "willing to continue to expand its business in China", according to a Foreign Ministry readout.

Mr. Musk and Tesla have not released any statement themselves on the trip or responded to AFP requests for comment.

Chinese media reported Tesla welcomed its CEO to Beijing on Tuesday with a 16-course dinner that included seafood, New Zealand lamb and traditional Beijing-style soybean paste noodles.

He also met Industry Minister Jin Zhuanglong in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss "the development of new energy vehicles and intelligent connected vehicles", the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a readout.

Tesla representatives did not respond to AFP requests for further information on Mr. Musk's itinerary.

China is the world's biggest electric vehicle market and Tesla announced in April it would build a second massive factory in Shanghai, after its Gigafactory that broke ground in 2019.

In his meeting with Mr. Qin on Tuesday, Mr. Musk also expressed his opposition to an economic "decoupling" between China and the U.S., Beijing said.

"The interests of the United States and China are intertwined, like conjoined twins, who are inseparable from each other," Mr. Musk said.

Mr. Musk's extensive business ties to China have raised eyebrows in Washington, with U.S. President Joe Biden saying in November the executive's links to foreign countries were "worthy" of scrutiny.

He has also caused controversy by suggesting the self-ruled island of Taiwan should become part of China — a stance welcomed by Chinese officials but which deeply angered Taipei.

Critics point to the industrial ties linking Mr. Musk to China, which has increasingly fraught ties with Washington.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Tuesday the country welcomed visits by international executives "to better understand China and promote mutually beneficial cooperation".

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