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China’s industry minister, Tesla’s Musk meet, discuss electric cars

Communist Party is trying to revive investor interest in China’s slowing economy
A worker walks in a Tesla showroom in Beijing, Tuesday, May 30, 2023. China’s foreign minister met Tesla Ltd. CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday and said strained U.S.-Chinese relations require “mutual respect,” while delivering a message of reassurance that foreign companies are welcome. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China’s industry minister met Tesla Ltd. CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday and the two discussed development of electric and “intelligent networked” vehicles, the ministry said.

Musk joined a series of CEOs from global companies including Apple Inc. who have met with Cabinet officials or Premier Li Qiang, the top economic official, during visits to China this year following the lifting of anti-virus controls that blocked most travel into the country.

The ruling Communist Party is trying to revive investor interest in China’s slowing economy and reassure companies that have been rattled by anti-monopoly and data-security crackdowns, raids on consulting firms, U.S.-Chinese political tension and pressure to align their plans with the ruling party’s industry and economic development goals.

The industry minister, Jin Zhuanglong, and Musk “exchanged views on the development of new energy vehicles and intelligent networked vehicles,” the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on its website. Its one-sentence statement gave no details.

China accounts for half of global electric vehicle sales and is the site of Tesla’s first factory outside the United States.

On Tuesday, the foreign minister, Qin Gang, told Musk that China will “unswervingly promote high-level opening up” and create a “market-oriented, law-based and internationalized business environment,” according to a government statement.

“China’s development is an opportunity for the world,” the statement said.

Li, the premier, delivered a similar message of reassurance in meetings in March with CEOs Tim Cook of Apple, Albert Bourla of Pfizer, Jakob Stausholm of Rio Tinto and Toshiaki Higashihara of Hitachi.

Qin told Musk that China’s EV market “has broad prospects for development,” according to the ministry statement.

Tesla opened the first wholly foreign-owned auto factory in China in 2019 after Beijing eased ownership restrictions to increase competition and speed up industry development.

The Chinese statement cited Musk as saying Tesla was willing to expand its business in China and “opposes decoupling,” a reference to fears the world may split into multiple markets with incompatible products.

Tesla didn’t respond to requests by email for information about Musk’s visit to China.

Musk also is the majority owner of social media platform Twitter, access to which is blocked in China by the ruling party’s internet filters.

The Associated Press