Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, considers himself man “Trying to do the right thing, which is not always clear.”
But in recent days his statements on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and tensions between China and Taiwan have shown the risks of public diplomacy for a billionaire with complex business interests around the world.
The Financial Times published a profile on Friday in which Musk proposed his own solution to tensions between China and Taiwan: hand over some control to Beijing. Taiwan is self-governing, but China considers the island part of its territory. He also said that Beijing has asked for assurances that it will not provide SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service to China.
“My recommendation … would be to find a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably nice, probably not going to make everyone happy,” Musk told the newspaper. “And it’s possible, and I think probably, in fact, they could have an agreement that’s more lenient than Hong Kong.”
The comments are important because Tesla operates a car plant in Shanghai. At the same time, SpaceX is developing Starlink, a satellite-based Internet service that has proven a military asset in defending Ukraine against Russian invasion.
The remarks are also out of line with US policy: President Joe Biden has said the US would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. The president has also said that the United States is maintaining its “One China” policy, in which it has avoided formal recognition of the Taipei government or provided it with a binding security guarantee.
Taiwanese government representatives in San Francisco and Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this week, Musk angered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy by tweeting a “peace” plan urging Ukraine to seek a negotiated deal with Russia that includes the permanent handover of Crimea. Zelenskiy responded on Twitter.
While Starlink has been a key asset for Ukraine, the service has failed Ukrainian troops at times on the front lines.
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