Beijing: Elon Musk met Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing on Tuesday, the ministry said, as the Tesla CEO embarks on his first trip to China in more than three years.
China is the world’s biggest electric vehicle market and Tesla announced in April it would build a second massive factory in Shanghai.
Qin told Musk China was “committed to creating a better market-oriented, rule-of-law-based and internationalised business environment” for foreign enterprises, his ministry said on its website.
Musk said in response “Tesla opposes ‘decoupling and breaking chains’, and is willing to continue to expand its business in China”, according to the ministry’s readout.
Musk’s ties to China have raised eyebrows in Washington, with US President Joe Biden saying in November the executive’s links to foreign countries were “worthy” of scrutiny.
On Tuesday, Qin and Musk discussed relations between China and the United States, according to Beijing, with the Chinese foreign minister saying the two countries should “apply the brakes in a timely manner to avoid dangerous driving”.
The battery factory announced in April will be Tesla’s second plant in Shanghai after Gigafactory, which broke ground in 2019.
The new factory, which will have an initial capacity of 10,000 Megapack units per year, is expected to “start production in the second quarter of 2024”, according to state news agency Xinhua.
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Tesla has recently hit its stride after years of losses, scoring an impressive string of earnings records as it has added factories and ramped up production.
It has also acted as a major catalyst for a revolution in transportation, with much of the industry’s innovation efforts moving away from the internal combustion engine towards electric vehicles.
Even with that success, Musk has fallen short of some of his outsized goals.
Tesla reported a drop in first-quarter earnings this year, with the company undertaking a series of price cuts in the face of competition from other automakers.
Tesla’s lowest-priced vehicle, the Model 3, begins at more than $40,000 in the United States — too pricey for many consumers even though the vehicle had been pitched at the mass market.
Musk has also missed his own deadlines for a fully autonomous vehicle, with Tesla driver-assistance technology spurring US regulatory probes.
And while Tesla remains the world’s largest seller of EVs, the popularity of Chinese brands has soared in recent years.
The largest of them, BYD, saw its profits jump fivefold in the first quarter thanks to global demand for its cars and buses.
EVs make up a quarter of car sales in China, the world’s largest car market, and dozens of new models from domestic and Western brands were unveiled in April at the country’s first auto show since Covid restrictions were lifted.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Tuesday the country welcomed visits by international executives “to better understand China and promote mutually beneficial cooperation”.