Elon Musk Hits Back at Claims That Teslas Could Be Used to Spy on Chinese Military Facilities
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk attempted to assuage the Chinese military's concerns that the company's electric vehicles could be used to spy on restricted facilities, CNN reports.
On Saturday, Musk spoke at the China Development Forum — an annual event organized by the Development Research Center of China's State Council — and dismissed fears that Tesla, an American car manufacturer, could be leveraged as a spy.
"There's a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information," he said. "If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down."
The billionaire businessman went on to compare the Chinese military's fears with the U.S. government's mistrust of Chinese-owned video-sharing platform TikTok. In 2020, former president Donald Trump threatened to permanently ban TikTok unless it was bought by a U.S. firm.
"The United States wanted to shut down TikTok," Musk said. "Luckily, it did not happen. Many people were concerned about TikTok, but I think this kind of concern is unnecessary, and we should learn lessons from it."
Several hours before Musk spoke, the Chinese military announced that it would ban Tesla vehicles from entering any of its premises, citing concerns over the cars' cameras, according to Bloomberg. The military has also directed all Tesla owners to park their vehicles outside military property. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier, Chinese officials appear to be uneasy that "data the cars gather could be a source of national security leaks" and had previously restricted the use of Tesla's vehicles by military staff and employees at state-owned companies.
Musk has enjoyed a bit of celebrity in China in recent years since Tesla entered the country's market in 2019. The Chinese government purportedly gave the company complete control over its projects in Shanghai, even though other U.S. competitors have had to work with Chinese counterparts to produce cars. That perk has paid off in many ways. Last year, for instance, Tesla sold 147,445 vehicles in China, accounting for 30% of its total worldwide.