Elon Musk wrapped up his first visit to China in years. Here’s what the Tesla CEO was up to

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Elon Musk last visited China in 2020 for the delivery ceremony of the Model 3. His first visit in 3 years saw the Tesla CEO meet with top government officials and speak to staff at the Shanghai Gigafactory.
Ding Ting | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Elon Musk left Shanghai on Thursday, wrapping up a whistle-stop tour of China in which the billionaire met with top officials, praised the country’s technology development and visited Tesla’s Gigafactory.

China is one of Tesla’s most important markets for sales and production and Musk, over the years, has offered lots of praise for the world’s second-largest economy.

Musk’s visit to China, his first in three years, comes as the country looks to portray a friendly environment for foreign business amid geopolitical tensions with the U.S. and following years of strict Covid controls that have made the operating environment difficult.

Here’s what Musk did after arriving in Beijing on Tuesday.

Musk meets Chinese officials

Musk met with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday.

Qin talked up the potential of the electric vehicle market in China which he said “has broad prospects for development,” according to a statement from the Chinese ministry.

Musk praised the Chinese people and China’s achievements. Tesla opposes “decoupling” and is willing to continue to expand its business in China, the statement said.

On Wednesday, Musk met with Jin Zhuanglong, China’s Minister of industry and information technology. The two sides discussed “the development of new energy vehicles and intelligent networked vehicles,” according to a statement from the ministry.

On Thursday, Musk met with Chen Jining, the Shanghai party secretary. Tesla’s Gigafactory is located in Shanghai, its only production site in China and one of the world’s biggest for the electric carmaker.

Chen talked about Shanghai as a place for international business, according to an official statement. Musk praised the success of the Shanghai Gigafactory and said he is hoping to continue to increase cooperation with the city in various areas, the statement added.

Musk meets the Vice Premier

Musk also met with China’s vice-premier Ding Xuexiang, one of the country’s top officials, Reuters reported citing a source familiar with the matter. Ding is known as a loyalist to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Ding is part of the Politburo Standing Committee, a top governing body led by Xi.

It is not clear what was discussed but the meeting highlights Musk’s close relationships with top Chinese politicians.

Musk meets with the chair of the world’s biggest EV battery maker

Musk also met with Zeng Yuqun, the chairman of CATL, the world’s largest electric vehicle battery company and a Tesla supplier, according to local media reports. An image circulating in local media, which could not be immediately verified by CNBC, showed Musk and Zeng walking side-by-side in a hotel.

In March, Bloomberg reported that Tesla was exploring building a battery plant in the U.S. in partnership with CATL.

CATL declined to comment and it was not clear what Musk and Zeng discussed.

Musk visits the Shanghai Gigafactory

Musk visited Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory on Thursday, according to a video posted by the company’s official account on the Chinese Twitter-like service Weibo.

The billionaire gave a speech to the staff and praised them.

“It’s been incredibly impressive how you have been able to overcome so many difficulties and so many challenges,” Musk told staff. “I tell people throughout the world, the cars we produce here are not just the most efficient production, but also the highest quality.”

The Shanghai factory has been key to the electric carmaker’s expansion into China.