Jeff Bezos's attempts to ding his longtime rival Elon Musk over his Chinese business ties following Musk's purchase of Twitter backfired when Amazon's own troubled foray into China got called out.

Twitter agreed to sell the company on Monday for $44 billion to Musk, who plans to take it private. Tesla is currently the world’s largest electric vehicle company, and Musk is heavily investing in China to make and sell his electric cars. He has complimented the Chinese Communist Party for its economic policies, even as the United States is relying on another Musk company, SpaceX, to launch satellites and astronauts into space.

On Monday night, Bezos, the owner of Amazon, Blue Origin, and the Washington Post, tweeted: “Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?”

He was responding to New York Times reporter Mike Forsythe, who pointed out that Tesla’s second-biggest market is China and that Chinese battery makers are significant suppliers for Tesla’s electric vehicles. Forsythe speculated that the Chinese government had almost no leverage over Twitter after banning it in 2009 but said, “That may have just changed.”

Bezos quickly backtracked, though, saying, “My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter … Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.”

Following Musk's purchase of Twitter, he touted free speech as the "bedrock of a functioning democracy."

"Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated," Musk declared.


China blocks its own people from using Twitter, although the tech company has run sponsored content by Chinese state-owned Huawei, and the Chinese government and Chinese state-run media make extensive use of the social media platform, including to push falsehoods about COVID-19’s origins.

Musk has worked to cozy up to China to expand his business there. China’s ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, revealed he’d had a “smooth ride” in a Tesla with Musk in March during a California visit, and he tweeted photos of himself and Musk together.

Last June, when the CCP was commemorating its 100th anniversary, Musk tweeted: “The economic prosperity that China has achieved is truly amazing, especially in infrastructure! I encourage people to visit and see for themselves.”

Musk shared his tweet with 1.9 million followers on Weibo, while the comments were also parroted by state-run media.

In March 2021, Musk praised China during an interview with state-run China Central Television, touting the CCP’s 14th five-year plan to increase its research and development spending.

Tesla also touted a new car showroom in Xinjiang on Chinese social media on New Year’s Eve, a week after President Joe Biden signed a law banning imports tied to forced labor in the region, where the U.S. says the Chinese government is conducting genocide against Uyghur Muslims.

Tesla will begin building a new Shanghai plant soon, according to Reuters, as part of an effort to more than double the company’s production capacity in China. The China Passenger Car Association said in March that Tesla sold more than 56,500 Chinese-made vehicles in February alone, including more than 33,000 for export.

CNBC said in March that the Chinese portion of Tesla’s revenue grew to 26% in 2021, up from 12% as recently as 2019.

Musk predicted in December that “China is probably going to have an economy two to three times the size of the United States” and asserted that “Tesla has a good relationship with China, and I don’t mean to endorse everything that China does any more than I would, say, endorse everything the United States does, or any country.”

SEC filings by Tesla show its revenue has grown in China, bringing in $14.87 billion, $12.65 billion, and $15.2 billion from the U.S. in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively, compared to Tesla’s revenue of $1.76 billion, $2.98 billion, and $6.66 billion in China.

While Bezos may have wanted to point all of this out with his tweet, Amazon, meanwhile, has also pursued extensive Chinese business. It agreed to the Chinese government’s request to stop allowing customer ratings and reviews on its Chinese-language website after a collection of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings received a negative review, Reuters reported in December. The outlet said Amazon’s compliance with the CCP order was “part of a deeper, decade-long effort by the company to win favor in Beijing to protect and grow its business.”

Amazon has also been linked to Uyghur forced labor claims.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute in 2020 identified Amazon as one of dozens of foreign and Chinese companies “directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through abusive labor transfer programs as recently as 2019.” The Tech Transparency Project said in March that Amazon’s public list of suppliers “includes five companies that have been linked directly or indirectly to forced labor of ethnic minorities from China’s Xinjiang region.”

A company spokesperson said, “Amazon complies with the laws and regulations in all jurisdictions in which it operates ... We take allegations of human rights abuses seriously, including those related to the use or export of forced labor.”


And filings reported by the Free Beacon also show that state-run China Daily paid Bezos’s Washington Post more than $100,000 per month over multiple years to push CCP propaganda, with the U.S. outlet saying it stopped printing it in 2019.