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China Gives Elon Musk a Superstar Welcome, High-Level Access

Musk is expected to meet several senior Chinese officials and visit Tesla’s Shanghai plant later in the week

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China. Photo: Reuters


From closed-door meetings with top officials to gushing social media mentions, Tesla chief Elon Musk’s first trip to China in three years has seen a lot of fanfare.

After landing in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon, the billionaire entrepreneur has already met with China’s foreign, commerce and industry ministers and has dined with Zeng Yuqun, chairman of top battery supplier CATL.

While little is known of those discussions, that hasn’t stopped an outpouring of enthusiasm for Musk on Chinese social media.


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To some he’s “a pioneer” and “Brother Ma”, while some want Musk to be US president.

“He’s a global idol,” commented one user. “Elon Musk is just great, if only China could have someone like Elon Musk,” said another.

Musk’s unannounced trip is the latest by a major US CEO to China since the country reversed its zero-Covid policy and reopened its borders. Apple’s Tim Cook visited in March, while JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon and Starbucks’ Laxman Narasimhan are also in China this week.

But compared to lower-key welcomes for his counterparts, Musk’s visit is a hot trending topic.

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



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


US-China ties on the menu

Musk’s popularity in China comes despite a deepening rift in Sino-US relations.

On Tuesday, Musk met Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang just hours after landing in Beijing. Qin used an elaborate driving metaphor to describe China-US relations, according to a statement from his ministry.

“We must step on the brake in time, avoid dangerous driving and be skilful at using the accelerator to promote mutually beneficial cooperation,” Qin said.

The foreign ministry also quoted Musk as describing the US and China economies as “conjoined twins” and saying that he was opposed to their decoupling.

Musk said he was willing to expand business in China, the statement added.

Later, after a meeting between Musk and Industry Minister Jin Zhuanglong, an official statement said the two exchanged views about the development of electric vehicles (EVs) and connected cars.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the social media storm in China and his propensity at home to make waves on Twitter, Musk has yet to make any public statements during his trip. Twitter is blocked in China.

He has not posted on his official Weibo account either.


“Golden goose” China

The meeting that caught most attention was that between Musk and CATL’s Yuqun. Images of the two conversing in a hotel lobby went viral on social media.



The battery giants have not released a statement on the discussions between the two. But according to a Yicai report, quoting state-run The Paper, the two were likely to discuss a joint battery-making plant in North America, CATL’s battery supply for Tesla EVs, and energy storage cells for the Megapack factory Tesla is planning to set up in Shanghai.

Musk’s visit comes amid an intensifying EV war in China, with Tesla facing mounting competition from local rivals. Uncertainty also looms about expansion plans for the Shanghai gigafactory and the release of Tesla’s advanced driver assistance features as part of the “Full Self Driving” software.

Musk is expected to meet other senior Chinese officials and visit the Shanghai plant later in the week, sources have said, though it was not clear who exactly he would meet or what issues they would discuss.

Investment firm Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said he expected Tesla to “aggressively focus on building out its China footprint”.

Despite increasing competition, China’s EV market, the world’s largest, has become “the golden goose”, he said, a reference to a source of continued profit.

He called Tesla’s Shanghai plant “the heart and lungs” of the company’s global production in a note for investors.


  • Reuters, with additional inputs from Vishakha Saxena


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Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at [email protected]


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