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Elon Musk Reportedly Planning China Visit Next Month To Meet With Xi’s No. 2

Forbes 3/31/2023 Siladitya Ray, Forbes Staff


Tesla CEO Elon Musk is planning to visit China in April where he has sought a meeting with a senior government official, Reuters reported Friday, as the billionaire increasingly finds himself in the middle of growing tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during the ground-breaking ceremony for a Tesla factory in Shanghai in January 2019. AFP via Getty Images © Provided by Forbes Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during the ground-breaking ceremony for a Tesla factory in Shanghai in January 2019. AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

Reuters, citing unnamed sources with “knowledge of planning for the trip,” reported that Musk has sought a meeting with China’s new Premier Li Qiang, a close ally of President Xi Jinping, who recently stepped up efforts to re-energize foreign investments in China after more than two years of harsh Covid restrictions.

The exact timing of the visit will be based on Li’s availability, however, the meeting agenda remains unclear, the report added.

China is home to Tesla’s largest manufacturing facility and the electric vehicle maker’s largest market outside the U.S.

Key Background

Musk’s reported trip would come at a time of surging diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China. Of late, the billionaire has sometimes found himself unwittingly in the middle of this conflict. Last month, Chinese state media reacted angrily to a tweet by Musk pointing to a report about the U.S. Department of Energy’s assessment that Covid-19 may have emerged from a lab in Wuhan. In response, the state-controlled Global Times warned Musk against proverbially biting the hand that feeds him—referencing China’s importance to Tesla—while accusing him of promoting a “conspiracy theory that slanders China.” Musk did not publicly react to this controversy. Earlier this month, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon attacked Musk, saying he’s “owned by the Chinese Communist Party,” and a “total and complete phony.” Bannon then accused Musk of refusing to un-censor people on Twitter who are critical of the CCP. In response to the allegation, Musk tweeted: “I used to think Bannon was smart & evil, but now I realize I was wrong about the first part.” The billionaire himself courted controversy last year in an interview where he commented on China-Taiwan relations, saying his recommendation was to “figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably palatable.” Musk’s statement earned him praise from China's ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang. However, Taiwan’s de-facto envoy reacted critically, tweeting: “Taiwan sells many products, but our freedom and democracy are not for sale.”

Surprising Fact

Last week, the billionaire’s mother, Maye Musk, made her first visit to China, causing a stir on Chinese social media. According to the South China Morning Post, Musk has achieved celebrity status in China, owing to the popularity of the Chinese version of her memoir, A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success. She acknowledged reports of her visit on Twitter, writing: “I am having a good time in China. Everyone is kind and friendly.”

Further Reading

Exclusive: Elon Musk plans China visit, seeks meeting with premier (Reuters)

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