As the world sorts out the implications of Elon Musk’s explosive deal to buy Twitter observers wonder whether the acquisition also opens the door for China to exercise indirect control over the social media platform, given Tesla’s reliance on its Shanghai factory and local suppliers for profit.
Twitter’s board on Monday, after rejecting Musk’s initial overtures, said it would accept Musk’s $44 billion offer for the company, ending a week-long saga over the issue. whether the company would accept his unsolicited offer. “Free speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital public square where issues vital to the future of humanity are debated,” the mercurial entrepreneur said in a statement.
In 2021, China has become Tesla’s largest source of vehicle production and probably his second source of sales. Given falling production costs there, including for battery cells, materials and worker compensation, it’s also “by far” the electric carmaker’s source of profit, it said recently. Wedbush stock analyst Dan Ives. Forbes. China, which has little tolerance for public criticism, banned Twitter in 2009, according to from the New York Times Michael Forsythe, a longtime correspondent covering the country. While the country previously had no influence on Twitter, “that may have just changed” with Musk’s agreement, Forsythe said in a tweet.
This caught the attention of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who asked in response, “Did the Chinese government just gain some influence in the town square?”
Tesla was the first foreign automaker in China allowed to fully own its auto assembly plant there. Previously, global giants such as General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford and Toyota had to partner with local Chinese companies, which typically held majority stakes in joint venture factories. Funding for the construction of the “Giga Shanghai” facility included $1.3 billion in loans from local banks including China Construction Bank Corp, Agricultural Bank of China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Chinese watchers believe Tesla received special dispensation because the government hoped the (formerly) Silicon Valley-based company would push Chinese automakers to up their game to compete with the brand. It seems to have worked as local companies such as BYD and NIO have become fast-growing rivals to Tesla in this market with a range of attractive and compelling new electric models.
Musk, the world’s richest person with a Forbes-estimated net worth of $268.2 billion, has shown a willingness to comply with the wishes of the Chinese government in ways he often doesn’t in the United States. United. The most notable difference is in its response to Covid19-related health rules. When the pandemic began in early 2020, Musk bristled at a local government lockdown policy that temporarily halted production work at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California.
“To say that (people) can’t leave their house, and that they will be arrested if they do, is fascist,” he said on a Tesla earnings call in April 2020. “That’s not democracy. That’s not freedom. Give people back their fucking freedom.
And yet, when the company had to halt production at its Shanghai factory for three weeks, starting in late March, due to the Chinese government’s zero-tolerance approach to stopping the spread of the omicron variant of covid, Musk remained silent. Tesla began building Model Ys and Model 3s last week, under strict protocols that included workers living temporarily at the factory and not returning home.
Earlier this year, Tesla also opened a showroom in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where the government is accused of pursuing an assimilation agenda and operating internment camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups. Musk did not comment on the move, which Tesla’s China unit announced in January in a post on Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like social media platform.
“Elon Musk has a Tesla factory in China and he wants to sell more cars there, as many Chinese observers note. What if Beijing leans on him over, for example, a Uyghur or Hong Kong activist account? Or about the Chinese disinformation bots that operate this platform? Vice News reporter Melissa Chan said in a Tweeter.
“If Elon Musk thinks that because he’s the richest man in the world he can tell China to fuck off if Beijing ever starts leaning on him over Twitter, he’ll find out with what efficiency the Chinese state can gobble up this Shanghai Tesla factory, taking with it as much IP as it can,” Chan tweeted. “Few countries are as efficient with liaison diplomacy as China.”
Shares of Tesla fell less than 1% to $998.02 on Monday in Nasdaq trading. Twitter rose 5.7% to $51.70.