China meets Elon Musk and calls for stable ties with the US

China called for “stable, constructive and long-lasting” relations with the US during a meeting Elon Musk. The meeting highlighted the complicated relationship between Beijing and Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Musk as saying that US-China interest are like conjoined identical twins, and Tesla opposes “decoupling”.

Musk is one of the richest men in the world and a major figure in the automotive, social media, and space industries. His relationship with China has been complicated. China is Tesla’s largest non-US market, and an important part of its supply chain.

The remarks of the Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday were made in the context of tensions which have pushed US/China relations to a low point not seen for decades. The remarks echoed those made by Li Keqiang, then the premier of China in 2019, who said Musk could “stabilise relations” with Washington.

Qin said that a healthy, stable, and constructive relationship between the US and China is beneficial not only to both countries but to the entire world.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon met Chen Jining on Tuesday, Shanghai’s highest Communist Party official, in advance of the US Bank conference that will be held on Wednesday.

Dimon was quoted by Shanghai’s official account on social media as saying that JPMorgan will play a part as a bridge to help foreign companies invest in the city. The bank refused to comment on the meeting, which it described as private.

The visits by Dimon and Musk to China come amid growing concern among foreign businesses after a series raids on corporate consultants.

Chinese security hawks are concerned about the links between SpaceX and the US military. Twitter, Musk’s platform for social media, is blocked in China.

Musk is expected to visit Tesla Shanghai’s factory this week. Musk met Li Qiang, the new premier of President Xi Jinping, on previous trips to China when he served as Shanghai’s party secretary.

Tesla’s China office has declined to comment.

Musk, unlike most US business leaders has a long history of expressing a sympathetic tone towards Beijing in sensitive matters in its relations with Washington such as Taiwan which Beijing considers to be part of its territory, and has threatened to seize by force if Taipei continues to resist unification.

Musk, when asked about the geopolitical tensions between China and the US regarding Taiwan earlier in May, said that there was “a sense of inevitability” to the situation given “the Chinese official policy is that Taiwan be integrated”.

Experts in Chinese defence have expressed concerns about the potential use of Musk satellites to conduct surveillance, or support Taiwan during a conflict. These fears intensified after SpaceX sent a shipment of Starlink Satellite Kits to Ukraine last year in order to strengthen its internet network against Russian forces.

Musk tweeted earlier this week that the Chinese space program was “far advanced” than people thought. Musk’s tweet was a response to an official news report that China will land people on the Moon by the end this decade. China launched its first civil into orbit on Tuesday.

Tesla’s China sales are a huge success, and the 1.4 billion people in China account for less than one third of all its sales. Tesla’s decision late last year to cut prices in China was the first salvo of a price battle that intensified competition.

According to Shanghai-based consultancy Automobility, Tesla’s sales share in China’s new energy vehicle market (which includes battery and plug-in hybrid cars) initially dropped before increasing to 9.6% from 7.9% in 2022. BYD, on the other hand, has seen its market share increase from 31.7% to 38.1% in the same time period.

Tesla’s first Shanghai factory, which opened in 2019 is credited for helping to accelerate China’s electric car sales. It also helped establish a strong local supply chain. Last month, the company announced plans for a new factory in Shanghai to manufacture Megapack energy storage system.

Musk’s company, in response to Beijing’s concerns over cross-border data privacy and the sensitive data about consumers and geographic location collected by Tesla cars, has promised to keep information collected in China at local data centres. Experts viewed this as a blow for the global data collection efforts that are critical to Tesla’s research and development.

JPMorgan’s Global China Summit, which will be held in Shanghai and is mostly closed to the international media, includes speeches from Henry Kissinger, architect of Sino-US relations in the 1970s. Other speakers include Laxman Nrasimhan (CEO of Starbucks), Daniel Li (CEO of Geely), and Robin Li (co-founder of Baidu).