In declaring Elon Musk the 2021 "Person of the Year," Time magazine heaped praise on the “madcap hybrid of Thomas Edison, P.T. Barnum, Andrew Carnegie, and Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan.”
The fawning, 7,000-word piece on Musk, the CEO of trillion-dollar technology company Tesla, begins: “The richest man in the world does not own a house and has recently been selling off his fortune. He tosses satellites into orbit and harnesses the sun; he drives a car he created that uses no gas and barely needs a driver. With a flick of his finger, the stock market soars or swoons. An army of devotees hangs on his every utterance. He dreams of Mars as he bestrides Earth, square-jawed and indomitable.”
But it spends very little time on Musk's relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, contending that Musk's business expansion in China "required cozying up to its repressive autocrats."
In truth, Tesla, the world's largest electric vehicle manufacturer, has gone all-in on China, with Musk repeatedly praising the communist regime. All the while, the United States is relying on another Musk company, SpaceX, to launch satellites and astronauts into space — and, ultimately, get America back to the moon.
Earlier this month, Musk was asked about his thoughts on China during an interview at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.
Musk predicted that “China is probably going to have an economy two to three times the size of the United States” and said, “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.”
He mused, “I do think there are a lot of people in the government of China who kind of grew up with China being a small economy and maybe who feel like China was pushed around a lot, but they haven’t fully appreciated the fact that China really is going to be the big kid on the block. And so, like, if you’re going to be the big kid on the block, then you can really be pretty chill about things.”
Musk added, “I would say that’s kind of an important mindset change, hopefully, that China goes through … Wouldn’t you want to behave like you would’ve wanted the biggest kid on the block to behave?”
Musk is reportedly “key” to Xi Jinping’s plan to make China the world’s future industrial center, with the Wall Street Journal stating that Xi viewed Musk “as a technology utopian with no political allegiance to any country” and saw Tesla “as a spearhead that could make China a power in new-energy cars.” The outlet added that “officials in Beijing made clear they wanted something in return for throwing open the country to Tesla.”
Musk's kind words for China have been on display dating back to at least 2019.
In June, when the CCP was commemorating its 100th anniversary, Musk tweeted to his 66.2 million followers, “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, China’s carefully monitored social media network, while the comments were also parroted by state-run media.
ELON MUSK PRAISES CCP WHILE COURTING BUSINESS AND HANDLING US SPACE FLIGHTS
In March, 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 in semiconductors, biotechnology, and quantum computing.
“What attracts me most about China’s Five-Year Plan is the tremendous amount of commitment to a low-carbon economy and ultimately to a sustainable energy economy. In the Five-Year Plan, China has committed to reach peak carbon emissions sooner than 2030 and to have a sustainable energy economy by 2060. These are very aggressive goals, and I think they are great goals, and I wish more countries actually had these goals,” Musk said.
He added, “China, I think, long-term will be our biggest market … I would like to strike an optimistic note. I am very confident that the future of China is going to be great and that China is headed towards being the biggest economy in the world and a lot of prosperity in the future, and this Five-Year Plan is gonna be a part of making that prosperity happen.”
In July 2020, Musk joined the Automotive News's Daily Drive podcast, where he praised China and criticized Americans who have "been winning for too long."
“China rocks, in my opinion. You know, the energy in China is great," he said. "The people there — there’s a lot of smart, hardworking people who really — they’re not entitled, they’re not complacent, whereas I see in the United States, increasingly, much more complacency and entitlement.”
While he is effusive in his praise for China, Musk does not hesitate to criticize U.S. politicians. He opposed the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan in December, calling U.S. spending levels “insane.” And he criticized Biden in personal terms, tweeting in November, “He looks good even for a 200-year-old! … He talks like an NPC [nonplayer character] with a limited dialogue tree.” Musk also criticized socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden last month.
The Tesla CEO has also repeatedly critiqued the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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. Tesla China sold nearly 53,000 made-in-China vehicles in November, according to the China Passenger Car Association. Tesla signed a deal with China’s Shanghai government in 2018 to set up a factory there, and that is also now the first foreign Tesla R&D center. Tesla’s financial filings show the company secured a $1.4 billion loan in 2019 from Chinese state-run banks to build the Gigafactory Shanghai.
Musk again complimented the Chinese government during China's World Internet Conference in September, when he vowed to increase Tesla’s R&D there.
It was reported in March that China was restricting the use of Tesla's vehicles for the military and state-owned companies. Musk reportedly assured Chinese politicians the company would not provide the U.S. with Chinese data. Musk was hit with car recalls in China, too, as the Chinese government tightened its grip on business.
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NASA announced in April that SpaceX was selected “to continue development of the first commercial human lander that will safely carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface," with an award value of $2.89 billion.
The Federal Communications Commission awarded SpaceX $885.5 million in federal subsidies in December 2020 to support rural broadband development through Musk's Starlink satellite internet network.