The Changing Relationship Between Elon Musk and China: A Look at the Recent Scandals
Elon Musk is a well-known and influential figure in the tech industry and is currently the richest man in the world. His company Tesla, which he founded, has a presence in all major economies in the world, including China, where their largest factory is located. However, due to various economic factors and the tense relations between China and the US, the Chinese government’s attitude towards Musk and his company has changed in recent years. This article will examine the events that led to the deterioration of the relationship between Elon Musk and China.
U.S.-China Trade War
In 2020, the relationship between Elon Musk and China was still cordial; Musk was even allowed to build his largest factory yet in Shanghai with the permission of local authorities. However, the escalating tensions between China and the US trade war that began in 2018 over accusations of unfair competition began to affect American companies. While Tesla was not restricted, the Chinese government’s attitude towards the company and Musk was affected.
Scandals Related to Tesla
In 2021, a series of scandals related to the quality of Tesla’s electric cars occurred in China. In April, a woman climbed onto one of Musk’s electric cars at the Shanghai auto show wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘New Tesla Always Failed Brakes’ and shouted that the company should leave the Chinese market. She was detained by the police and arrested for five days, but her protest sparked a wave of criticism against Musk on Chinese social media platforms. It was revealed that Chinese customers had been complaining about Tesla’s electric cars’ quality for some time, leading to the Chinese government asking Tesla to conduct its operations within Chinese law.
In late 2021, SpaceX, Musk’s other company, was hit by a scandal that further damaged Musk’s reputation in China. The Chinese government raised concerns about SpaceX’s satellite broadband network after some of its satellites nearly collided with China’s space station. Even though these complaints have not been independently verified, the negative publicity led to angry Chinese citizens posting critical comments about Musk and SpaceX on Chinese social media platforms.
Reasons for the Deterioration of the Relationship
Apart from the scandals mentioned above, there are several reasons why Musk was always going to be a target for the Chinese government:
Competition with Chinese Manufacturers: Tesla’s quality and innovation in the electric car market have enabled it to take on and beat Chinese manufacturers. This is seen as a major threat by Chinese patriotic groups, leading to more scrutiny of the company.
Space Race: Space exploration has been a significant priority for both the US and China, and Musk’s SpaceX has become a major player. As a result, the two sides are constantly in a space race, which has led to tensions between the US and China. Musk’s SpaceX has become a significant competitor to China’s space industry. This has not gone unnoticed and presumably would not have changed even if there had been no scandals.
Military Ties: Musk is the largest provider of civilian satellites to the Pentagon. This could cause concern for the Chinese government as they could be used against them in the future.
Political Ties: Musk is one of the most influential people in the US, and as such, there have been concerns raised about his links to China’s government and the information he may have access to.
In recent years, the relationship between Elon Musk and China has deteriorated. The escalating tensions between the US and China over the trade war have affected American companies in China, including Tesla. The scandals related to Tesla’s electric cars and SpaceX’s orbital activities also damaged Musk’s reputation. However, even without these scandals, there were several reasons why Musk was always going to be a target for the Chinese government. For now, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the relationship between Elon Musk and China.