Elon Musk praised China’s “vitality and promise” on Wednesday, Beijing said, during a trip to China 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 over three years.
He met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao in Beijing yesterday, praising “the vitality and potential of China’s development”, according to a ministry readout of the meeting.
Musk “expressed full confidence in the China market, and was willing to continue deepening mutually beneficial co-operation”.
He also said: “China-US relations are not a zero-sum game”, the readout 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.
Musk has extensive business interests in the country and told Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday that his firm was “willing to continue to expand its business in China”, according to the foreign ministry.
Musk and Tesla have not released any statement themselves on the trip or responded to AFP requests for comment.
Chinese media reported that 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.
Musk also met Industry Minister Jin Zhuanglong in Beijing yesterday to discuss “the development of new energy vehicles and intelligent connected vehicles”, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a readout. Yesterday evening the tycoon was seen boarding his private plane at Beijing’s Capital International Airport.
He is next expected to visit his factory in Shanghai, Bloomberg reported, citing sources, and potentially meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.
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 Qin on Tuesday, Musk expressed his opposition to any economic “decoupling” between China and the United States, Beijing said.
“The interests of the United States and China are intertwined, like conjoined twins, who are inseparable from each other,” Musk said.
Musk’s extensive business ties to China have raised eyebrows in Washington, with 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.
Musk is one of a number of Western executives to visit China since the country ended strict Covid controls that saw it largely closed off from the world for almost three years.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said this week that Beijing welcomed visits by international executives “to better understand China and promote mutually beneficial co-operation”.
In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Beijing, saying his company enjoyed a “symbiotic” relationship with China.
That same month, Albert Bourla, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, also paid a visit to the Chinese capital.
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