It is said that in critical moments you can recognize friends and foes. That may be what Taiwan is wondering about billionaire Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and now the owner of Twitter.
According to senior NATO intelligence officials, in Beijing’s military blockade of Taiwan that occurred last August, there was a strong if indirect influence from Elon Musk.
Members of the intergovernmental alliance for collective defense are deeply concerned about the relationship between the Chinese regime, Elon Musk, and his business partner at Twitter, Oracle chairman and chief technology officer Larry Ellison.
It so happens that Tencent, the technology company directly linked to the Chinese Communist Party, collects data for military purposes through various applications it owns. This data is stored in Oracle’s cloud and is used to help the Chinese military make strategic decisions. In turn, the Chinese company Tencent has held a 5% stake in Tesla, owned by Musk, since 2017.
Oracle, for its part, stores in the cloud the data collected by several companies linked to the Chinese communist regime, such as Tencent and Byte Dance, the owner of TikTok. Following the national security events in several countries in 2020, it became clear that both companies use the same data collection procedure for military purposes.
It is known that data collected by Tencent Holdings and Oracle’s cloud computing technology was used to assist the communist military forces in strategic and tactical decision-making. For example, the data allowed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to adjust its naval training schedules quickly and effectively integrate multiple operational domains, including the internet, land, maritime, air, and space.
Tencent—and necessarily Oracle—is also involved in China’s “military-civilian integration” program and is developing technologies such as artificial intelligence and information and communication. Owning WeChat and other social networks, the product Tencent manipulates is human communication and all its potential.
Elon Musk’s business dealings with the Chinese regime
What is the relationship between the CCP and Elon Musk? The CCP bought about 5% of Tesla’s shares through Tencent. And through Tesla, Musk is directly linked to the CCP.
The influence of the CCP is inferred in Musk’s statements when he says that he plans to follow in the footsteps of WeChat, Tencent’s app, with Twitter.
Suppose he follows in WeChat’s footsteps of being a super app and Tencent’s footsteps of spying on data for military purposes. In that case, Musk will have sole control of one of the West’s most critical global platforms for political and social discourse. And depending on which side he’s on, that’s how he’ll use it: “The bird is free,” he tweeted.
In the East, Tesla’s Shanghai factory produces 30-50% of Tesla’s total production. In turn, the Chinese market accounts for about 25% of Tesla’s total global revenue and is already Tesla’s second-largest market. There is no denying that Musk is funded by Chinese capital.
Musk is also the beneficiary of a vast tax exemption on purchasing his best-selling vehicles, granted by the CCP following the businessman’s declaration in favor of the invasion of Taiwan.
Roula Khalaf, the Financial Times reporter who interviewed Musk, noted that the tycoon’s silence was long when asked about China. The answer was delayed by having to answer about Tesla’s risk of being so dependent on the CCP.
Elon Musk’s enormous benefits from the Chinese communist regime leave him vulnerable in his freedom of action. In that sense, expressing an opinion on the CCP’s conflict with Taiwan comes with a reward—or punishment.
According to Khalaf, Musk acknowledged that the recent withdrawal of his support for Ukraine with mobile internet is due to Beijing’s disapproval. However, China’s interests are aligned with Russia’s, so helping the military circumvent Russia’s Internet cutoff via Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite communications system is not a good plan for the CCP’s protégé.
Rising tensions between the U.S. and China, and the risk of a Chinese takeover of Taiwan, put Musk in a bind because one thing is sure: business decisions can no longer be made without considering security and geopolitical issues.
Giving simple recommendations for complex geopolitical problems can only bring more problems. “Discovering a special administrative zone for Taiwan … with an agreement that is more lenient than Hong Kong’s” is to clarify Elon Musk’s direct relationship with the CCP.
Elon Musk claims to be a rights ‘absolutist,’ but his actions contradict
In recent months, Musk made headlines for his acquisition of the social network Twitter, in which he consistently declared himself a “free speech absolutist.” He was also in the news for withdrawing aid to the Ukrainian military that circumvented Russia’s Internet cutoff and for receiving financial compensation as a reward for anti-Taiwan statements supporting the CCP.
It is paradoxical to defend freedom of expression in the West, while in the East, he is a partner of the worst repressor of journalists and dissidents in history.
Musk is the only foreigner who owns an automobile company based in China. Part of his capital for purchasing the social network Twitter comes from there. One of his shareholders is Tencent, the representative of the CCP. The tax exemptions enjoyed by the tycoon are enormous, and, in addition, Tesla’s factory in Shanghai is gigantic. There is no doubt that the CCP has welcomed him with open arms; now it is time to consider what absolutist interests he will put the little blue bird at whose service.