Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is in China. This is his first trip to the second biggest economy in the world in more than three years.
He reached Beijing on Tuesday and is also likely to go to Shanghai to see Tesla's big factory there. The millionaire met China's foreign minister, Qin Gang, just a few hours after he got there.
Mr. Musk hasn't said anything about the trip in public yet. It comes at a time when the US and China are fighting. When reporters asked him about his plans for the trip as he left a hotel in Beijing on Wednesday, he also wouldn't say anything. Later on Wednesday, Mr. Musk met with Jin Zhuanglong, China's minister of industry, to talk about the growth of electric cars.
China's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Mr. Musk was ready to grow Tesla's business in China, which is its second-largest market after the US. The ministry also said that Mr. Musk had said during the meeting that the economies of the US and China are "joined twins."
Mr. Musk is the latest well-known US business leader to visit China. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan is also in China this week, and Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, was there in March. Dan Ives from the investment company Wedbush Securities said that as tensions between Washington and Beijing rise, Tesla is in a tough spot.
In January 2019, Tesla began building its "gigafactory" in Shanghai. This was the company's first factory outside of the US. In the fall of that year, it sent out its first cars made in China. This was a big step for the American company. However, Covid lockdowns all over the country, including in Shanghai, which is a major financial, manufacturing, and shipping center, made it harder and harder for makers to do their jobs.
Last year, Mr. Musk said that the coronavirus lockdown in Shanghai was "very, very difficult" for Tesla, which allegedly had to stop most of its production at its gigafactory for several weeks. Since then, work has started up again at the plant, which, according to Mr. Musk, made its one millionth car in August. This was equal to a third of everything Tesla made around the world.
The company said last month that it was going to build a new plant in China to make its large "Megapack" batteries. A market research company called JATO says that China is now the largest market for Tesla's Model Y, which is an electric car for the mass market.
JATO data shows that more than 94,000 Model Y cars were sold in China in the first three months of this year. This was more than in the US or Europe.
In recent years, car companies like Ford and General Motors, as well as younger companies like BYD and Nio from China, have made it harder for Tesla to be the leader in the electric vehicle market. Mr. Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion (£35.5 billion) last year. He has been under pressure to find someone else to lead the company so he can focus on his other businesses, like Tesla and rocket company SpaceX.