Elon Musk often makes bold predictions about where technology is headed, and he recently used a unique platform to share his latest predictions about human progress: cyberspace, the official magazine of the Chinese internet regulator.
In the article, Musk shared news from three of his companies — Tesla, Neuralink, and SpaceX — and called on “like-minded Chinese partners” to help him build a “future worth waiting for.”
The Tesla CEO is the first foreigner to be written for cyberspace, a magazine edited and published by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). Previous issues have featured articles by Chinese tech CEOs like Tencent’s Pony Ma and Alibaba’s Daniel Zhang, according to the (Alibaba-owned) South China tomorrow post.
The CAC has not yet uploaded an online version of Musk’s column, but Xinhua reporter Yang Liu translated a physical copy of the article into English in his newsletter Beijing Canal. Tesla did not respond immediately Wealth’s request for comment, but Tesla China confirmed to Bloomberg that the article was by Elon Musk.
The CAC is the main body responsible for the regulation and control of the Chinese internet, including censorship. The regulator flexed its regulatory muscles in July 2021 when it announced an investigation into data security breaches into Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Global days after the company’s IPO in New York.
In his article, Musk praised China’s investments in renewable energy, electric vehicles and battery technology, calling Chinese companies “a force to be reckoned with when it comes to energy innovation.”
The Tesla CEO also unveiled the upcoming “Tesla Bot,” a humanoid robot that the company unveiled last year. Musk said the robot would eventually “serve millions of homes” and take on tasks like “taking care of the elderly.” China’s population is aging rapidly due to falling birth rates, making elderly care a priority for a central government scrambling to ease the country’s demographic crisis. “Perhaps in less than a decade, people will be able to buy their parents a robot as a birthday present,” Musk predicted.
Musk took an even longer view of space exploration. He wrote that his “greatest hope” is to create a “self-sufficient city on Mars” and that his quest to transform humans into “multiplanetary creatures” aims to secure the future of human civilization that he as “a little shimmering light in the void.”
Musk and China
Musk is praising China at a time when many other Western CEOs are downplaying their presence in the country amid rising China-US tensions and the threat posed by Beijing.
The Tesla CEO has posed as a free-speech advocate amid his — now suspended — plans to buy social media platform Twitter, but writing for China’s internet regulator risks undermining Musk’s legitimacy of free speech.
China is key to Tesla’s supply chain; one of the automaker’s five gigafactories is in Shanghai. The city’s two-month COVID lockdown led to declines in both vehicle deliveries and earnings for Tesla in the second quarter of the year. The automaker — reportedly with government help — kept the assembly lines at its Shanghai factory through a so-called closed system that forced workers to live on-site. But disruptions elsewhere in China’s auto industry led to parts shortages, forcing the Gigafactory to cut its shifts.
Tesla was so concerned about cash flow following China’s COVID lockdowns that it liquidated 75% of its Bitcoin holdings, according to the automaker’s second-quarter earnings call.
Tesla has not escaped the Chinese regulatory scrutiny. In April 2021, state media called the automaker “arrogant” after it refused to release data to a disgruntled customer seeking more information about a crashed Tesla. Next month, Tesla announced it would build a data center in Shanghai to host data from its Chinese customers, comply with local privacy laws, and relax its no-compromise policy on sharing data with users. Yet Chinese officials still sometimes view Tesla cars as a risk, with officials in Beidaihe — the site of an annual conclave of top Communist Party leaders — banning Tesla cars from the road in July and August.
Tesla’s business in China appears to be back on track. Elon Musk on Monday tweeted that Tesla’s Gigafactory in Shanghai has manufactured its 1 millionth car out of a total of 3 million cars produced worldwide since the automaker was founded.
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