Tesla CEO Elon Musk has met top ministers in China to discuss the development of electric and “intelligent networked” vehicles as well as the expansion of the carmaker’s operations in the communist nation.
The mercurial American 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 and praised “the vitality and potential of China’s development”, according to a ministry readout.
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Musk “expressed full confidence in the China market and was willing to continue deepening mutually beneficial cooperation”, the ministry said. “China-US relations are not a zero-sum game,” it quoted Musk as saying.
China accounts for half of the world’s electric vehicle sales and is the site of Tesla’s first factory outside the United States.
Tesla opened the first wholly foreign-owned car factory in China in 2019 after Beijing eased ownership restrictions to increase competition and speed up industry development.
In another meeting, Musk “exchanged views on the development of new energy vehicles and intelligent networked vehicles” with Industry Minister Jin Zhuanglong, his ministry said on its website.
The statement cited Musk as saying Tesla was willing to expand its business in China and “opposes decoupling”, a reference to fears the world may split into multiple markets with incompatible products.
Musk also is the majority owner of the social media platform Twitter, access to which is blocked in China by the ruling Communist Party’s internet filters.
Revive investor interest
Musk joined a series of CEOs from global companies, including Apple Inc, who have met with cabinet officials or Premier Li Qiang, China’s top economic official, during visits to the world’s second largest economy this year after the lifting of pandemic controls that blocked most travel into the country.
The Communist Party is trying to revive investor interest in China’s slowing economy and reassure companies rattled by anti-monopoly and data-security crackdowns, raids on consulting firms, and US-Chinese political and military tensions.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told Musk that China will “unswervingly promote high-level opening-up” and create a “market-oriented, law-based and internationalised business environment”, according to a government statement.
“China’s development is an opportunity for the world,” it said.
Li delivered a similar message of reassurance in meetings in March with CEOs Tim Cook of Apple, Albert Bourla of Pfizer, Jakob Stausholm of Rio Tinto and Toshiaki Higashihara of Hitachi.
‘Yelling at each other’
Meanwhile, the CEO of the biggest US bank said Beijing and Washington’s disputes over security and free and fair trade issues are all “resolvable” and he favours East-West “de-risking” rather than decoupling.
JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon said on Wednesday that the US and China need to have “real engagement” to resolve their tricky security and trade matters.
“You’re not going to fix these things if you are just sitting across the Pacific yelling at each other,” Dimon said, answering a question about Sino-US decoupling at a three-day JPMorgan Global China Summit in Shanghai.
“I like the fact that Janet Yellen, secretary of the Treasury; President [Joe] Biden; the national security adviser; and secretary of state have been talking about de-risking,” he said. “Let’s not try to decouple. Let’s not try to hurt China, the Chinese people.”
Dimon is on his first visit to China since he joked in 2021 that JPMorgan will outlast China’s Communist Party, sparking outrage in China and prompting him to express regret.