BEIJING: Elon Musk met Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing on Tuesday, the ministry said, on the Tesla CEO’s first trip to the country since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
China is the world’s biggest electric vehicle market, and Tesla announced in April that it would build a second massive factory in Shanghai.
Qin told Musk that China was “committed to creating a better market-oriented, rule-of-law-based and internationalised business environment” for foreign enterprises, his ministry said on its website.
The statement also quoted Musk as saying: “Tesla opposes ‘decoupling and breaking chains’, and is willing to continue to expand its business in China.”
Musk’s ties to China have raised eyebrows in Washington, with US President Joe Biden saying in November that the billionaire’s links to foreign countries were “worthy” of scrutiny.
Qin and Musk spoke about relations between China and the United States, with Qin saying the two countries should “apply the brakes in a timely manner to avoid dangerous driving”, according to the ministry’s statement.
The battery factory announced in April will be Tesla’s second factory in Shanghai after the Gigafactory, which broke ground in 2019.
Tesla has hit its stride after years of losses, scoring an impressive string of earnings records as it has added factories and ramped up production.
The company has also acted as a major catalyst for a revolution in transport, with much of the automobile sector’s innovation efforts moving away from the internal combustion engine towards EVs.
Even with that success, Musk has fallen short of some of his outsized goals.
Tesla reported a drop in first-quarter earnings this year, with the company undertaking a series of price cuts amid competition from other automakers.
Tesla’s lowest-priced vehicle, the Model 3, begins at more than $40,000 in the United States — too pricey for many consumers even though the vehicle had been pitched at the mass market.
Musk has also missed his own deadlines for a fully autonomous vehicle. US regulators are continuing to investigate potential issues with Tesla driver-assistance technology.
And while Tesla remains the world’s largest seller of EVs, the popularity of Chinese brands has soared in recent years.
The largest of them, BYD, saw its profits jump fivefold in the first quarter thanks to global demand for its cars and buses.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Tuesday that the country welcomed visits by international executives to “to better understand China and promote mutually beneficial cooperation”.