US and China ‘intertwined like conjoined twins’, says Musk

US and China ‘intertwined like conjoined twins’, says Musk

Elon Musk said the interests of the US and China are “intertwined like conjoined twins” during his surprise visit to China on Tuesday amid strained diplomatic ties between the countries.

The Tesla billionaire reached Beijing in his first visit to the country in over three years, visited China’s top ministries and discussed electric vehicles. Mr Musk also met China’s foreign, commerce, and industry ministers and dined with Zeng Yuqun, the chairman of top battery supplier CATL.

The visit garnered a lot of attention in China and revealed adulation for Mr Musk from Chinese social media users, even as the relationship between Washington and Beijing plummeted.

“The interests of the United States and China are intertwined like conjoined twins,” Mr Musk was quoted as saying by the foreign ministry of China.

He was later also quoted by the country’s commerce ministry as saying that relations between the two countries were not a zero-sum game in which one side must lose if the other were to win.

While little is known of the discussions the Twitter chief is having – as he remains unusually quiet on social media – Mr Musk and industry minister Jin Zhuanglong “exchanged views on the development of new energy vehicles and intelligent networked vehicles”, said the ministry.

China, responsible for half of all global electric vehicle sales, serves as the location for Tesla’s first factory outside the US.

The company reportedly submitted applications to expand its production facilities in Shanghai. Mr Musk’s plans were still awaiting approval as he earlier said it faces some “constraints”.

The talks are expected to be aimed at easing this expansion, believe observers.

The billionaire’s visit has also generated a lot of interest among China’s netizens. Some called him “a pioneer” and “Brother Ma”, in an oblique reference to Jack Ma, while others said he should become the next US president.

“He’s a global idol,” wrote one Chinese social media user.

“Elon Musk is just great, if only China could have someone like Elon Musk,” said another.

A worker stands next to a Tesla being charged in Beijing (AP)
A worker stands next to a Tesla being charged in Beijing (AP)

In recent months, foreign companies have been facing increasing pressure in China, with a recent crackdown on international consulting firms. Both the US and China have also imposed restrictions on each other’s chipmakers.

American companies are also facing pressure from outside as increasing threats of military escalation with Taiwan forces businesses to diversify their supply chains away from China.

Mr Musk, however, touted the Asian country’s development as its ministers assured they were looking at increased cooperation.

The Chinese government statement cited Mr Musk as saying Tesla was willing to expand its business in China and “opposes decoupling” – a reference to fears the world may split into multiple markets with incompatible products.

China's foreign minister Qin Gang, right, poses for photos with Tesla chief Elon Musk (AP)
China's foreign minister Qin Gang, right, poses for photos with Tesla chief Elon Musk (AP)

On Tuesday, foreign minister Qin Gang told Mr Musk that China will “unswervingly promote high-level opening up” and create a “market-oriented, law-based and internationalised business environment”, said the government statement.

“China’s development is an opportunity for the world,” it said.

Mr Qin also told Mr Musk that China’s electric vehicle market “has broad prospects for development”.

Mr Musk is expected to meet other senior Chinese officials and visit the Shanghai plant later in the week, reported Reuters citing sources.

With China's economy also experiencing a slowdown and facing internal and external challenges, like anti-monopoly measures and the US-Chinese political tensions respectively, the ruling Communist Party has been engaging with more prominent CEOs off late.

Chinese premier Li Qiang earlier held discussions with Apple’s Tim Cook, Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, Rio Tinto’s Jakob Stausholm and Toshiaki Higashihara of Hitachi, reiterating China's commitment to creating a favourable business environment.