Elon Musk responded to concerns that Tesla cars might be used for espionage at the China Development Forum Saturday.
The world’s wealthiest man denied his company was a conduit for international espionage during remarks made at the China Development Forum Saturday. Hours before, Chinese social media spread a screenshot of what appeared to be an order banning Tesla vehicles from a military accommodation complex. An unnamed source “familiar” with the matter said officials were “very concerned” prior to Musk’s visit.
Musk’s response was blunt, pointing out the risks. “If Tesla used cars to carry out espionage activities in China or anywhere, we will get shut down,” he said. “There’s a strong incentive for us to be confidential.”
Musk used the controversial Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok as an example. “Many people were concerned over TikTok but I think this was an unnecessary concern. We should learn lessons from this,” he said.
Musk is historically popular in China, having called it “the future,” effusing about the “smart” and “hard-working” citizens of the PRC, while complaining that Americans are “entitled” and “complacent.” In January, Musk suggested China might be “more responsible” than the U.S. in regard to the safety of their people.
“It seems ironic, but even though you have sort of a single-party system, they really actually seem to care a lot about the well-being of the people,” Musk said during the Business Insider interview. “In fact, they’re maybe even more sensitive to public opinion than what I see in the U.S.”
The multi-billionaire has good reason to make nice. As the world’s largest electric vehicle consumer base, China is an important market for electric vehicles like those produced by Tesla. According to statistics from the China Passenger Car Association, 30% of the company’s global sales come from China. The CPCA reported Tesla produced 23,600 vehicles, and delivered 18,300 to China last month.