Elon Musk, Ceo of Tesla, said his company’s cars would never be used for espionage in China, in response to reports that the Chinese military had banned vehicles because of these concerns.
“There is a very strong incentive for us to be top secret with any information,” Musk said Saturday at the China Development Forum, an annual conference organized by a unit of the State Council. If Tesla uses cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will stop our business.”
Reuters and Bloomberg reported hours before his remarks that the Chinese military had prevented Tesla cars from entering their compounds, expressing fears that cameras were on board.
The Wall Street Journal also reported Friday that the government has restricted “military and employee employees of major state-owned companies” from driving the company’s cars, “citing concerns that data collected by cars could be a source of national security leaks.”
Previous media outlets reported the news, citing undisclosed sources, while the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tesla did not respond.
Speaking via video call Saturday, Musk compared the controversy to that of TechTalk last year, a company he said did not get “confidence.” The App, owned by PayDance, faced calls to ban it in the United States last year for alleged national security reasons.
“The United States wanted to ban TechTalk,” Musk said. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. A lot of people were worried about Tic Talk. But I think this kind of anxiety is unnecessary, and we must learn lessons from it.”
Tesla has achieved great success in China in recent years, especially after it built the shanghai giant factory. In 2019, the company began manufacturing cars there to strengthen its presence in the world’s largest car market, and Musk even described the plant as a “model of future growth.” The company was able to retain full control of the project, which was unusual at the time, and has received strong government support in recent years.
But the U.S. automaker has also attracted scrutiny from regulators recently, prompting some observers to question whether its private relationship with officials is over, after Chinese officials last month summoned Tesla to face questions about the quality of its Shanghai-based cars.