May 18, 2024

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Elon Musk received compliments and feasts during his China trip

Elon Musk received compliments and feasts during his China trip

BEIJING (Reuters) – Billionaire Elon Musk paid tribute during a trip to China this week, with people on social media calling him a “pioneer”, “Brother Ma” and a “global idol” while he was CEO of Tesla. (TSLA.O), Twitter, SpaceX and other companies met in person with three government ministers.

Since his arrival in Beijing on Tuesday, Musk has met with China’s foreign ministers, trade and industry and dined with Zeng Yuchun, president of battery supplier CATL (300750.SZ).

Little is known about those conversations. The Industry Department said Musk and her boss exchanged views on the development of electric and connected cars; The Department of Commerce announced that he had discussed Tesla’s development in China with its chief. But the lack of information hasn’t stopped the outpouring of enthusiasm for Musk on Chinese social media.

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

His private jet left Beijing on Wednesday night for the financial hub of Shanghai, where the US automaker has a factory, according to flight data provider Variflight. Two informed sources said he is expected to travel to the factory to meet the staff.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk’s unannounced trip was the latest to China by a top US CEO since the country reversed its coronavirus policy and reopened its borders. Apple’s Tim Cook (AAPL.O) visited in March, while JPMorgan’s (JPM.N) Jamie Dimon (JPM.N) and Starbucks’ Laxman Narasimhan (SBUX.O) visited China this week.

But compared to the less solemn welcome of his counterparts, Musk’s visit is a popular topic and his popularity comes despite rising tensions between the United States and China, with his comments on artificial intelligence and electric cars very close to attention.

Pictures posted on social media showed that even the menu of the 16-course meal at the upscale restaurant Man Fu Yan he shared with CATL’s Zeng on Tuesday night was full of flair.

Painted with two breeding horses — a play on the horse character used in the Chinese name for Mask — the list described Tesla as a dark horse that “stands out from traditional car companies.”

In contrast to the social media storm in China and his tendency at home to make waves on Twitter (which he now owns), Musk made no public statements during his trip. Twitter is banned in China.

Tesla and Catel did not respond to requests for comment. The Ministry of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment. The State Department quoted the billionaire as describing the US and China economies as “conjoined twins” and saying he opposed separating them.

Musk’s first visit to China in three years comes as Tesla faces stiff competition from electric cars made in China and some uncertainty about expansion plans for the Shanghai plant.

The Shanghai plant produced more than 700,000 Model Y and Model 3 vehicles last year, more than half of the company’s global output.

It was not clear whether Tesla faced any regulatory hurdles to expand the factory.

Investors are also keen to see if Chinese regulators will approve the release of Tesla’s advanced driver assistance features. The features are available in the US as part of the “Fully Self-Driving” program, which sells for $15,000 per vehicle.

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Additional reporting by Martin Pollard, Josh Arslan, Wang Tingshu, and Joe Cash in Beijing, Zhang Yan in Shanghai, and Newsroom Shanghai; Written by Brenda Goh. Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Sriraj Kalluvila, and David Gregorio

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Martin Pollard

Thomson Reuters

Martin Pollard is a Beijing-based China correspondent covering political and general news. Since joining Reuters in 2017, he has reported on some of the biggest stories in the region including the China-US trade war, the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, the COVID pandemic in China, and the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympics. Martin, who is originally from From the southeast of England, he is a former TV reporter and video journalist with more than ten years of experience in China and is fluent in Mandarin.