China’s foreign minister met Tesla Ltd. CEO Elon Musk and said strained U.S.-Chinese relations require “mutual respect,” while delivering a message of reassurance that foreign companies are welcome. U.S.-Chinese relations are especially tense after Washington shot down a Chinese balloon believed to be gathering intelligence and warned Beijing against supplying arms to Russia for its war against Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal reported China has rejected a request for its defense minister to meet the U.S. defense secretary when both are in Singapore this weekend. “We need to keep the steering wheel in the right direction of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation,” Qin Gang told Musk, according to a ministry statement. The two sides should “avoid ‘dangerous driving,’ “ Qin said. He gave no details of steps to improve relations.
Musk’s visit comes at a time when the ruling Communist Party is trying to revive investor interest in China’s slowing economy. Foreign companies are uneasy following raids on consulting firms and given the strained Chinese relations with Washington. Qin said China will “unswervingly promote high-level opening up” and create a “marketoriented, law-based and internationalized business environment,” according to the statement. “China’s development is an opportunity for the world.” China’s electric vehicle market “has broad prospects for development,” the ministry quoted Qin as saying. China accounts for half of global electric vehicle sales and is the site of Tesla’s first factory outside the United States. Tesla opened the first wholly foreign-owned auto factory in China in 2019 after Beijing eased ownership restrictions to increase competition and speed up industry development. The Chinese statement cited Musk as saying Tesla was willing to expand its business in China and “opposes decoupling,” a reference to fears the world may split into multiple markets with incompatible products. Tesla didn’t respond to requests by email for information about Musk’s visit to China.