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China urges 'mutual respect' as Tesla CEO Elon Musk visits

May 30, 2023

Tesla chief Elon Musk said he was against "decoupling and breaking chains" with China during his visit to Beijing. The country accounts for half of global electric vehicles sales.

Elon Musk gestures during a press conference in Texas
Elon Musk is visiting Beijing amid strained relations between the US and ChinaImage: Jim Watson/La Nacion/Zumapress/picture alliance

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, met Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry said.

Qin told Musk China was "committed to creating a better market-oriented, rule-of-law-based and internationalized business environment" for foreign enterprises, according to the ministry statement.

China's electric vehicle market "has broad prospects for development," Qin said in the statement. China accounts for half of global electric vehicles sales.

"We need to keep the steering wheel in the right direction of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation," Qin told Musk at their meeting. 

Musk was visiting Beijing for the first time since 2020. His electric car company Tesla has a factory in China, with another in the works.

"Tesla opposes 'decoupling and breaking chains', and is willing to continue to expand its business in China," Musk was quoted as saying.

China: German car bosses' risky game

Tesla factories in China

The Gigafactory Shanghai, Tesla's first factory outside the US, produces cars for Chinese, Japanese and European markets. The Gigafactory began production in China's most populous city in 2019.

This April, Tesla announced it would build another factory in Shanghai to produce energy storage units.

The batteries, which Tesla calls "Megapack," are meant for large-scale commercial projects. They can be used to stabilize power grids and prevent outages.

The plant is due to break ground later this year and begin production in the second quarter of 2024.

Biden on Musk's relations with China

Musk's visit comes at a time of cool diplomatic ties between China and the US, where Tesla is based.

In November last year, US President Joe Biden told reporters that "Elon Musk's cooperation and/or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at."

He said "Whether or not he is doing anything appropriate — I am not suggesting that — I'm suggesting it's worth being looked at. And that's all I'll say."

Musk has also reportedly accused Biden of ignoring the successes of his company in favor of paying more attention to legacy automakers like General Motors.

rm/dj (AP, Reuters, AFP)