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This story first appeared in China Report, MIT Technology Review’s newsletter about...
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Taiwan slams Elon Musk, says it’s ‘not for sale’ after he defends China’s policy

Billionaire Elon Musk was shredded by a top Taiwanese government official after the Tesla boss described the self-ruled island nation as an “integral part of China.”

Musk sparked the fury of Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu by appearing to defend Beijing’s claim that the island nation is part of its territory during a virtual appearance at the “All In” Summit on Wednesday.

“China has, really for like half a century or so or maybe longer at this point, their policy has been to reunite Taiwan with China,” said Musk, whose Tesla plant in Shanghai is the biggest car manufacturer outside the United States.

“From this standpoint, it maybe is analogous to Hawaii or something like that, like an integral part of China that is arbitrarily not part of China – mostly because the US Pacific Fleet has stopped any sort of unification effort by force,” he added on the popular podcast.

Wu fired back at Musk – pointing out that his company X is currently blocked in China. He also called out the billionaire over recent revelations that Musk denied a request by Ukraine to use SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network to facilitate an attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

“Hope @ElonMusk can also ask the CCP to open @X to its people. Perhaps he thinks banning it is a good policy, like turning off @Starlink to thwart Ukraine’s counterstrike against Russia,” Wu wrote on X.

“Listen up, Taiwan is not part of the [People’s Republic of China] & certainly not for sale!” he added.

The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to retake it, even if military force is required.

Elon Musk is pictured.
AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration and other Western officials have repeatedly warned China not to take military action against Taiwan, which has been self-ruled since 1949. Congress has approved shipments of defensive weaponry to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the US has long retained a policy known as “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan, in which it recognizes China’s claims on the island while retaining informal diplomatic ties with the government in Taipei.

Musk has cultivated ties with the Chinese government for years as Tesla expanded sales and production of its electric vehicles within the country – an arrangement that has drawn intense scrutiny from US lawmakers wary of Beijing’s intentions.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu slammed Musk’s remarks.
AFP via Getty Images

Taiwan has self-ruled for decades.

Taiwan has vowed to defend itself from any Chinese military aggression.
AFP via Getty Images

Last October, Beijing praised Musk after he suggested that Taiwan should become a “special administrative zone” under China’s control.

“My recommendation…would be to figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably palatable, probably won’t make everyone happy,” Musk said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Musk’s remarks at the time drew condemnation from Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s representative to the US.

“Taiwan sells many products, but our freedom and democracy are not for sale,” the representative said. “Any lasting proposal for our future must be determined peacefully, free from coercion, and respectful of the democratic wishes of the people of Taiwan.”

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