Do Chinese want Elon Musk to be US president?

Musk was given audiences with three government ministers as he met with Chinese FM Qin Gang

By
Web Desk
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk stands near Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao before leaving the Chinese Ministry of Commerce in Beijing, China May 31, 2023. — Reuters
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk stands near Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao before leaving the Chinese Ministry of Commerce in Beijing, China May 31, 2023. — Reuters

As tech billionaire and CEO of Tesla Elon Musk’s jet landed in Beijing Tuesday, it marked his first trip in three years to China where he was scheduled to meet Chinese state officials and business people, however, it was not clear at the moment what was to be discussed.

Upon his arrival, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that the government welcomed CEO Musk — and other business leaders — looking to promote "mutually beneficial cooperation."

People in China also reacted to 51-year-old tech tycoon Musk’s arrival with people regarding him as a global pioneer, while others regarded him as Brother Ma, referring to Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Ali Baba Group Jack Ma.

As he was being showered with praise on Chinese social media, some also expressed their intentions that they want him as US President. A user said: "Elon Musk is just great, if only China could have someone like Elon Musk."

He was given audiences with three government ministers as he met with the Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and commerce and industry ministers, alongside dining with Zeng Yuqun, chairman of top battery supplier CATL.

This picture on May 30, 2023, shows Tesla CEO Elon Musk (L) shaking hands with Chinas Foreign Minister Qin Gang during a meeting in Beijing. — AFP
This picture on May 30, 2023, shows Tesla CEO Elon Musk (L) shaking hands with China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang during a meeting in Beijing. — AFP

It is not immediately clear what was discussed among the Chinese state officials and former CEO of Twitter Elon Musk but the industry ministry has only said Musk and its head Jin Zhuanglong exchanged views about the development of electric vehicles and connected cars — that hasn't stopped an outpouring of enthusiasm for CEO SpaceX on Chinese social media.

As per the Reuters report in March, Musk was intending to visit China and was seeking a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

It is a major trip by one of the major US company CEOs since China revoked its zero-COVID policy and reopened its doors to foreigners, though Musk’s trip was unannounced.

CEO Apple Tim Cook visited China in March whereas, JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and Starbucks' Laxman Narasimhan are also in China this week.

Despite visits by other business leaders, Musk’s trip is a hot topic amid the US-China commercial tensions, with interest shown in his comments on artificial intelligence (AI) and electric vehicles.

According to the photos posted on social media, the menu for the 16-course meal at the upmarket Man Fu Yan restaurant he shared with CATL's Zeng Tuesday evening was effusive.

Illustrated with two rearing horses — a play on the character for a horse used in Musk's Chinese name — the menu described Tesla as a dark horse "standing out from traditional automotive companies".

The foreign ministry quoted the billionaire as describing the US and China economies as "conjoined twins" and saying that he was opposed to their decoupling.

The visit comes at a backdrop when Musk's Tesla is facing competition from Chinese-manufactured electric cars. The vehicle company is also facing uncertainty about expansion plans for the Shanghai factory complex that Musk last visited in early 2020.

After the US, China is the second biggest market for Tesla and the Shanghai plant is the electric car maker's largest production center.

For Tesla observers, central areas of interest include the status of its plans to increase output by 450,000 vehicles annually at its Shanghai plant.

Tesla said in April that it would build a nearby factory to produce Megapack energy storage products.

It is also yet to be seen whether Chinese regulators allow the release of Tesla's advanced driver assistance features available in other markets as part of the "Full Self Driving" software it sells for $15,000 per vehicle.