Elon Musk meets China’s No 2 official in Beijing

Tesla CEO’s unannounced visits comes as Chinese carmakers are promoting rival models at the Beijing Motor Show.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made multiple visits to China in recent years [Susan Walsh/AP]

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has met China’s number two official on an unannounced visit to Beijing.

Musk’s meeting with Premier Li Qiang came as Chinese carmakers promoted their latest electric vehicles at the Beijing Motor Show, taking place from April 25 to May 5.

During their meeting on Sunday, Li told Musk that he hoped the United States would engage with China on “win-win” cooperation, citing Tesla’s operations in the country as a successful example of working together, Chinese state media reported.

“China’s very large-scale market will always be open to foreign-funded firms,” Li was quoted as saying.

“China will stick to its word and will continue working hard to expand market access and strengthen service guarantees.”

Musk said in a post on X that he was “honoured” to meet the number two official.

During Musk’s visit, Tesla reached an agreement with Chinese tech giant Baidu to use its mapping licence for data collection on China’s public roads, clearing a key regulatory hurdle to the rollout of self-driving software in the country, the Reuters news agency reported on Monday, citing two sources familiar with the deal.

Musk’s plane departed from China en route to Anchorage, Alaska on Monday afternoon, according to Chinese flight tracking app Flight Manager.

The billionaire entrepreneur’s trip came about a week after he cancelled a scheduled visit to India to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to “very heavy Tesla obligations”.

Tesla operates its biggest manufacturing plant outside the US in Shanghai, where about half of its vehicles are produced.

The electric car maker has been struggling with sluggish sales, in part due to fierce competition from Chinese brands.

Tesla’s vehicle deliveries fell by 8.5 percent in the first quarter, contributing to a 40 percent slide in its stock price since July.

The company last week reported profits of $1.1bn in the first quarter, down from $2.51bn a year ago.

Musk earlier this month told staff in a memo that the company would lay off more than 10 percent of its global workforce so that it would be “lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle”.

Chinese auto giant BYD dethroned Tesla as the world’s biggest electric vehicle maker in the last three months of 2023, although the Austin, Texas-based company reclaimed the title in the first quarter of this year.

Musk has made multiple trips to China in recent years, wrapping up his most recent visit in June last year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies