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

Jing Xuan Teng / Oliver Hotham
31 May 2023, MVT 19:22
People walk past a Tesla showroom at a shopping mall in Beijing on May 31? 2023. -- Photo: Jade Gao / AFP
Jing Xuan Teng / Oliver Hotham
31 May 2023, MVT 19:22

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.

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-US 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.

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.

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 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.

Deep business ties

In his meeting with Qin on Tuesday, Musk also expressed his opposition to an 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.

Critics point to the industrial ties linking 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".

© Agence France-Presse

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