Musk’s Taiwan remarks draw ire from Taipei, thanks from Beijing

FILE – Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces the Cybertruck at Tesla’s design studio Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Hawthorne, Calif. Peiter Zatko, the former Twitter security chief who’s accused the company of negligence with privacy and security in a whistleblower complaint, will testify before Congress on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Zatko’s accusations are also playing into Musk’s battle with Twitter to get out of his $44 billion bid to buy the company. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

Days after weighing in on the Ukraine war, tech billionaire Elon Musk suggested establishing a “special administrative zone” around the self-governing island of Taiwan in a new interview, angering Taipei while earning a thank-you from Beijing.

In an interview with the Financial Times published Friday, Musk discussed how a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would disrupt the global economy and his electric car business, Tesla, which has a factory in Shanghai.

Musk said his recommendation “would be to figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably palatable.”

That “probably won’t make everyone happy,” he said in the interview. “And it’s possible, and I think probably, in fact, that they could have an arrangement that’s more lenient than Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong won independence from England in 1997 and is governed under the “one country, two systems” rule, allowing it to ostensibly operate independently from China. In the past two years, however, Beijing-backed leaders have orchestrated a brutal crackdown on dissent in the city-state.

Musk’s comment on Taiwan drew the ire of several Taiwanese lawmakers over the weekend.

Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Wang Ting-yu wrote in a Facebook post that “individual independent companies cannot take their ownership as a joke,” according to the Taipei Times.

“So why should they casually pass off the democratic freedoms, sovereignty and way of life of 23 million Taiwanese?” the lawmaker wrote. “It is not acceptable for Ukraine, and Taiwan certainly will not allow it.”

Other lawmakers criticized his comments as tone deaf and said Taiwan needs to protect its sovereign rights amid threats of a Chinese invasion, which became more pronounced in August after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) traveled to the island in a show of support and provoked Beijing.

Musk’s Taiwan proposal — which came just days after he offered a similarly controversial solution on how to end the war in Ukraine, suggesting Kyiv cede some territory and agree to never join NATO — was greeted more enthusiastically by China.

Qin Gang, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S., tweeted that he would “like to thank [Elon Musk] for his call for peace.”

“Actually, Peaceful reunification and One Country, Two Systems are our basic principles for resolving the Taiwan question,” the ambassador wrote.

Musk, who has activated Starlink satellites in Ukraine to provide internet access amid the war, told the Financial Times that Beijing sought assurances he would not roll out the Starlink service in China.

President Biden has repeatedly made diplomatic waves in recent months with his pledges to send U.S. troops to help defend Taiwan in case of a Chinese invasion.

U.S. officials have insisted that the administration stands by the One China policy and the Taiwan Relations Act, which acknowledges Taiwan is a part of China but allows America to maintain ties and help defend the island nation.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill out of committee last month that would authorize $4.5 billion to Taipei over the course of four years and designate the country as a major non-NATO ally.

Tags Beijing China Elon Musk Elon Musk Qin gang Taipei Taiwan
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