Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang on Tuesday, hours after landing in China for his first trip to the country in three years.
China will continue to open up and strive to create a better market-oriented business environment for enterprises from all countries, including Tesla, Gang said during the meeting with Musk, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.
In a statement earlier, China’s foreign ministry said it welcomed Musk and other corporate leaders looking to foster “mutually beneficial cooperation”.
It was unclear who else Musk will meet with in the Chinese government or what topics they would address. But sources say he is likely to meet with senior officials and visit Tesla’s Shanghai plant.
The trip is Musk’s first to China since he made headlines in early 2020 by dancing on stage at Tesla’s Shanghai gigafactory.
China is Tesla’s second-largest market after the United States. The Shanghai factory is also the electric vehicle-maker’s main production hub.
Musk’s trip comes at a time when Tesla is facing increasing competition from Chinese-made electric vehicles, as well as some ambiguity over the Shanghai plant complex’s expansion plans.
Pending Tesla clearances
The status of Tesla’s plans to raise annual output at its Shanghai plant by 450,000 vehicles is of particular interest to Tesla watchers. The carmaker announced in April it would construct a neighbouring factory to manufacture Megapack energy storage items.
The company has submitted plans to local authorities to increase the capacity of the Shanghai plant’s powertrain production to 1.75 million units per year.
Meanwhile, China’s state planner has been concerned about sanctioning new production capacity due to a glut in the country’s auto industry, which has more than 100 companies.
Earlier this month, Musk told CNBC “there are some constraints on our ability to expand in China”. “It’s not a demand issue,” he added.
During the same interview, Musk stated that tensions between the US and China “should be a concern for everyone”.
Another pending question is whether China’s regulators will approve the release of Tesla’s advanced driver assistance features which are available in other markets as part of the $15,000 “Full Self Driving” programme.
Praise for China’s space program
Musk’s private jet, a 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, was seen leaving Alaska on Tuesday morning Asia time before passing over Japan and South Korea, as per flight aggregation website ADS-B Exchange.
On Tuesday, the jet with the identifying tail number was spotted at Beijing Capital International Airport.
While the plane was en route to China, Musk tweeted heaped praises on China’s space programme, which plans to land a crew on the moon by 2030.
“The Chinese space programme is far more advanced than most people realise,” he tweeted.
The China space program is far more advanced than most people realize
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 29, 2023
Chinese scholars have been watching Musk’s SpaceX and the military uses of its Starlink satellite network with interest and alarm since their use in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
State-owned Chinese enterprises are racing to launch their own low-Earth orbit communications satellites following Starlink’s success.
Chinese military specialists have also investigated the internet service as a potentially dangerous technology.
- Reuters, with inputs from Vishakha Saxena