China is Tesla’s second-biggest market after the US, with the company’s largest production plant based in Shanghai
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made plans to visit China sometime in the coming weeks and hopes to meet with the country’s new premier, Li Qiang, Reuters reported on Friday. The billionaire’s last trip to the People’s Republic came in 2020, during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Musk is looking to travel to China “as early as April,” though the exact timing will depend on Li’s schedule, the outlet said, citing two sources with knowledge of the trip. They did not reveal exactly what Musk plans to do in the country, or what he hopes to achieve through his meeting with the premier.
Tesla, which has found a significant market in China, has not confirmed the reported travel plans.
Musk met with Li previously at the 2019 opening of Tesla’s ‘gigafactory’ in Shanghai, and the two later held a meeting online, where the CEO thanked him for supporting the plant throughout the pandemic, according to local media reports. At the time, Li served as Shanghai’s party secretary and was involved in the construction of the factory, the company’s largest production facility. He took over as the eighth premier of the State Council of China earlier this month, after Xi Jinping began his third term as president.
While Musk’s last visit to China came in early 2020, just weeks into the global coronavirus outbreak, he has delivered a number of virtual addresses for events based in the country – including its 2021 World Internet Conference, where he vowed to boost Tesla’s investments in China.
US President Joe Biden has said Musk’s “cooperation and or technical relationships” with foreign powers are “worthy of being looked at,” though hastened to add that he was not accusing the entrepreneur of “doing anything inappropriate.” Though multiple media reports last year stated that the White House had launched a “national security review” of Musk’s overseas business dealings, the Biden administration later insisted the claims were “not true.”
Despite Musk’s growing financial ties with China, Beijing itself has also voiced concerns about some of his ventures, with military researchers previously calling to develop a way to “destroy” SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network should it become necessary. Tesla’s electric cars have also reportedly been banned from Chinese military facilities due to the cameras installed on the vehicles, a directive imposed soon after a contentious meeting between US and Chinese officials in Alaska in 2021.