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Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears set to visit China amid an increasingly frosty relationship between Beijing and Washington.
Elon Musk reportedly plans to visit China in April to meet with the country’s Premier Li Qiang. However, inside sources explained that the timing of Musk’s visit remains subject to Li Qiang’s availability.
The Elon Musk trip to China would be the first time the Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO would visit the East Asian nation since Covid. Musk last visited China when President Xi Jinping was still serving his second term as leader of the world’s second-largest economy. Xi Jinping secured a third five-year term as China’s president earlier this month.
Musk’s planned China trip comes amid increasing tensions between Beijing and Washington. The Tesla CEO is in the middle of this diplomatic strife because China houses the EV maker’s largest manufacturing facility. The prominent East Asian country is also Tesla’s largest market outside the United States.
The exact Purpose of Musk’s China Visit Remains Unknown
By meeting with Li, a senior government official and close ally of President Xi Jinping, Musk seeks a realignment of personal interests. Beijing recently shored up efforts to revitalize foreign investments in China following more than two years of Covid-triggered restrictions.
Reports did not officially state the purpose of Musk’s trip to China or what he intends to discuss with Li. However, speculations suggest that Musk and Li’s meeting could address the benefits of a potential foreign investment between both parties.
Musk and Li met before at the 2019 opening of Tesla’s Shanghai plant when the latter was still party secretary of Shanghai City. Then, Li was instrumental in constructing and opening the city’s manufacturing plant, which is now Tesla’s production hub.
In 2020, Musk and Li met again, albeit virtually, when they participated in an online forum. At the time, the Tesla boss expressed gratitude to the then-Shanghai party secretary for supporting the factory’s operations during the pandemic.
Recent Timeline of Musk-China Relationship
Although Musk appears to have a cordial relationship with the Chinese government, the business mogul found himself in hot water last month. In February, Chinese state media reacted angrily to a Musk statement suggesting that Covid emerged from a lab in Wuhan. On February 26th, the tycoon commented on a tweet referencing a US-state department’s conclusion that Covid originated in a Wuhan lab.
The state-controlled Global Times warned the outspoken billionaire against proverbially biting the hand that feeds him. In addition to referencing China’s importance to Tesla, the English-language Chinese newspaper accused Musk of slandering China.
Although Musk did not publicly react to the controversy, a former Trump advisor recently attacked him over his alleged Chinese ties. Earlier this month, Steve Bannon claimed that the Tesla head was “owned by the Chinese Communist Party.” Bannon also described Musk as a “total and complete phony” for refusing to un-censor CCP critics on Twitter. In response to Bannon’s allegations, Musk tweeted:
“I used to think Bannon was smart & evil, but now I realize I was wrong about the first part.”
Last week, Musk’s mother, Maye Musk, visited China for the first time, quite the excitement on Chinese social media.