France to Ban TikTok on Work Phones of Civil Servants

The TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. (Reuters)
The TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. (Reuters)
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France to Ban TikTok on Work Phones of Civil Servants

The TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. (Reuters)
The TikTok app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. (Reuters)

France will ban the use of Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok on the work phones of civil servants, Civil Service Minister Stanislas Guerini said on his Twitter account.

"In order to guarantee the cybersecurity of our administrations and civil servants, the government has decided to ban recreational applications such as TikTok on the professional phones of civil servants," he said in a statement.



Twitter Executive Responsible for Content Safety Resigns after Musk Criticism

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, US November 18, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, US November 18, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
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Twitter Executive Responsible for Content Safety Resigns after Musk Criticism

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, US November 18, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, US November 18, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

A top Twitter executive responsible for safety and content moderation has left the company, her departure coming soon after owner Elon Musk publicly complained about the platform’s handling of posts about transgender topics.
The departure pointed to a fresh wave of turmoil among key officials at Twitter since Musk took over last year.
Ella Irwin, Twitter's head of trust and safety, confirmed her resignation in a pair of tweets late Friday, The Associated Press reported. She did not say in the message why she was leaving, but her departure came shortly after Musk criticized Twitter’s handling of tweets about a conservative media company's documentary that questions transgender medical treatment for children and teens.
Musk was responding to complaints by Jeremy Boreing, co-CEO of the media company, the Daily Wire. Boreing said in tweets and retweets of conservative commentators Thursday that Twitter was suppressing the movie by flagging posts about it as hate speech and keeping the movie off lists of trending topics.
Boreing tweeted that Twitter canceled a deal to premiere “What is a Woman?” for free on the platform “because of two instances of ‘misgendering.’" Twitter rules prohibit intentionally referring to transgender individuals with the wrong gender or name.
“This was a mistake by many people at Twitter. It is definitely allowed," Musk tweeted back. “Whether or not you agree with using someone’s preferred pronouns, not doing so is at most rude and certainly breaks no laws.”
Irwin tweeted Friday that “one or two people noticed” she left the company the day before, and she noted speculation about whether she was fired or quit. She teased that she would post 24 tweets to explain her departure.
Then she posted that she was just kidding about the long narrative.
“In all seriousness, I did resign but this has been a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so thankful to have worked with this amazing team of passionate, creative and hardworking people. Will be cheering you all and Twitter as you go!”
Next to Musk, Irwin had been the most prominent voice of the company’s ever-changing content policies in recent months.
Twitter has struggled to bring back advertisers turned off by Musk’s drastic changes and loosening of rules against hate speech since he bought Twitter for $44 billion in October. Twitter also has an incoming CEO, Linda Yaccarino, known for decades of media and advertising industry experience, but she hasn’t started yet.
Irwin and Twitter didn’t respond to requests from The Associated Press for comment.
Twitter has been in turmoil including mass layoffs and voluntary departures since the billionaire Tesla owner bought the San Francisco company and took it private.


YouTube Scraps 2020 US Election Misinformation Policy

A picture taken on October 5, 2021 in Toulouse shows the logo of YouTube social media displayed by a tablet. (AFP)
A picture taken on October 5, 2021 in Toulouse shows the logo of YouTube social media displayed by a tablet. (AFP)
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YouTube Scraps 2020 US Election Misinformation Policy

A picture taken on October 5, 2021 in Toulouse shows the logo of YouTube social media displayed by a tablet. (AFP)
A picture taken on October 5, 2021 in Toulouse shows the logo of YouTube social media displayed by a tablet. (AFP)

YouTube will stop removing content that falsely claims the 2020 US presidential election was plagued by "fraud, errors or glitches," the platform said Friday, a decision quickly criticized by anti-misinformation advocates.

The announcement by the Google-owned video website is a marked departure from its policy initiated in December 2020, which attempted to curb false claims -- most importantly pushed by then-president Donald Trump -- that his re-election loss to Joe Biden was due to the vote being "stolen."

"The ability to openly debate political ideas, even those that are controversial or based on disproven assumptions, is core to a functioning democratic society -- especially in the midst of election season," YouTube said in a blog post.

"We will stop removing content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches occurred in the 2020 and other past US presidential elections."

YouTube's updated policy, which goes into effect immediately, comes as tech platforms grapple with a key issue in America's hyperpolarized political environment: How to combat misinformation without curtailing free speech?

YouTube appeared to acknowledge that policing misinformation comes with downsides.

"Two years, tens of thousands of video removals, and one election cycle later, we recognized it was time to reevaluate the effects of this policy in today's changed landscape," the video-sharing giant said.

"In the current environment, we find that while removing this content does curb some misinformation, it could also have the unintended effect of curtailing political speech without meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm."

But that response prompted sharp criticism from US advocacy groups.

"YouTube is dead wrong in its assertion that removing false election content curtails political speech without meaningfully reducing real-world harms," said Nora Benavidez, from the nonpartisan group Free Press.

"Its dangerous decision to immediately stop removing content... which continues to sow hate and disinformation that threatens our democracy must be reversed immediately."

YouTube insisted that its other existing rules against election misinformation remain unchanged, including its prohibition of content that deceives voters or incites people to interfere with democratic processes.

"YouTube was one of the last major social media platforms to keep in place a policy attempting to curb 2020 election misinformation," said Julie Millican, vice president of the left-leaning watchdog Media Matters.

"Now, it's decided to take the easy way out by giving people like Donald Trump and his enablers free rein to continue to lie without consequence about the 2020 elections."


Meta Tests Blocking News Content on Instagram, Facebook for Some Canadians

Meta
Meta
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Meta Tests Blocking News Content on Instagram, Facebook for Some Canadians

Meta
Meta

Meta is temporarily blocking some Canadian users from accessing news content on Facebook and Instagram as part of a temporary test that is expected to last through the end of June, the tech giant said Thursday.

The block — which follows a similar step taken by Google earlier this year — comes in response to a proposed bill that will require tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online. Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is currently being considered in the Senate and could be passed as early as this month, The Associated Press said.

Meta also said it is prepared to permanently block news content on Facebook and Instagram for Canadians if the bill passes.

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez called Meta's move “disappointing” and said Canadians will not be intimidated by these tactics.

The temporary block announced Thursday will affect one to 5% of its 24 million Canadian users, with the number of those impacted fluctuating throughout the test, said Rachel Curran, head of public policy for Meta Canada.

Randomly selected Canadian users will not be able to see or share news content in Canada either on Instagram or Facebook.

The block could include news links to articles, reels — which are short-form videos — or stories, which are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.

International news companies including the New York Times or BBC could also have their content blocked in Canada during the test if they are randomly selected.

Meta said it is picking random news publishers that will be notified that some users in Canada will not be able to see or share their news content throughout the test. Users will still be able to access their accounts, pages, businesses suites and advertising.

Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the bill, which promises to “enhance fairness” in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Tech giants including Meta and Google have been blamed in the past for disrupting and dominating the advertising industry, eclipsing smaller, traditional players.

Meta, which is based in Menlo Park, California, has taken similar steps in the past. In 2021, it briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would compel tech companies to pay publishers for using their news stories. It later struck deals with Australian publishers.


AI Chips Are Hot. Here's What They Are, What They're For and Why Investors See Gold

A Nvidia Corporation sign is shown in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A Nvidia Corporation sign is shown in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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AI Chips Are Hot. Here's What They Are, What They're For and Why Investors See Gold

A Nvidia Corporation sign is shown in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A Nvidia Corporation sign is shown in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The hottest thing in technology is an unprepossessing sliver of silicon closely related to the chips that power video game graphics. It’s an artificial intelligence chip, designed specifically to make building AI systems such as ChatGPT faster and cheaper.
Such chips have suddenly taken center stage in what some experts consider an AI revolution that could reshape the technology sector — and possibly the world along with it. Shares of Nvidia, the leading designer of AI chips, rocketed up almost 25% last Thursday after the company forecast a huge jump in revenue that analysts said indicated soaring sales of its products. The company was briefly worth more than $1 trillion on Tuesday.
SO WHAT ARE AI CHIPS, ANYWAY?
That isn't an easy question to answer. “There really isn’t a completely agreed upon definition of AI chips," said Hannah Dohmen, a research analyst with the Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
In general, though, the term encompasses computing hardware that's specialized to handle AI workloads — for instance, by “training” AI systems to tackle difficult problems that can choke conventional computers, The Associated Press reported.
VIDEO GAME ORIGINS
Three entrepreneurs founded Nvidia in 1993 to push the boundaries of computational graphics. Within a few years, the company had developed a new chip called a graphics processing unit, or GPU, which dramatically sped up both development and play of video games by performing multiple complex graphics calculations at once.
That technique, known formally as parallel processing, would prove key to the development of both games and AI. Two graduate students at the University of Toronto used a GPU-based neural network to win a prestigious 2012 AI competition called ImageNet by identifying photo images at much lower error rates than competitors.
The win kick-started interest in AI-related parallel processing, opening a new business opportunity for Nvidia and its rivals while providing researchers powerful tools for exploring the frontiers of AI development.
MODERN AI CHIPS
Eleven years later, Nvidia is the dominant supplier of chips for building and updating AI systems. One of its recent products, the H100 GPU, packs in 80 billion transistors — about 13 million more than Apple's latest high-end processor for its MacBook Pro laptop. Unsurprisingly, this technology isn't cheap; at one online retailer, the H100 lists for $30,000.
Nvidia doesn't fabricate these complex GPU chips itself, a task that would require enormous investments in new factories. Instead it relies on Asian chip foundries such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Korea's Samsung Electronics.
Some of the biggest customers for AI chips are cloud-computing services such as those run by Amazon and Microsoft. By renting out their AI computing power, those services make it possible for smaller companies and groups that couldn't afford to build their own AI systems from scratch to use cloud-based tools to help with tasks that can range from drug discovery to customer management.
OTHER USES AND COMPETITION
Parallel processing has many uses outside of AI. A few years ago, for instance, Nvidia graphics cards were in short supply because cryptocurrency miners, who set up banks of computers to solve thorny mathematical problems for bitcoin rewards, had snapped up most of them. That problem faded as the cryptocurrency market collapsed in early 2022.
Analysts say Nvidia will inevitably face tougher competition. One potential rival is Advanced Micro Devices, which already faces off with Nvidia in the market for computer graphics chips. AMD has recently taken steps to bolster its own lineup of AI chips.

Nvidia is based in Santa Clara, California. Co-founder Jensen Huang remains the company’s president and chief executive.


Elon Musk's Jet Leaves Shanghai as Tycoon Wraps up China Visit

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China May 31, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China May 31, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
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Elon Musk's Jet Leaves Shanghai as Tycoon Wraps up China Visit

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China May 31, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk gets in a Tesla car as he leaves a hotel in Beijing, China May 31, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

A jet belonging to Tesla CEO Elon Musk departed Shanghai on Thursday, Chinese flight-tracking data showed, as the tycoon wraps up a visit to China that has seen him express hopes to expand business in the world's largest market for electric vehicles.

Musk's private jet took off from Shanghai's Hongqiao airport just after 11 am (0300 GMT), data from Umetrip, which is backed by China's major state-owned airlines, showed.

It was bound for Austin, Texas, where Tesla is headquartered, said AFP.

The mercurial tycoon, one of the world's richest men, is wrapping his first trip to China in more than three years.

On Wednesday night he visited Tesla's factory on the outskirts of Shanghai and met employees, a post on China's Weibo social media by the car company's global vice president Grace Tao showed.

Earlier in the day he met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao in Beijing, praising China's "vitality and promise" and expressing "full confidence in the China market", according to a readout.

Musk and Tesla have not released any statement on the trip, or responded to AFP requests for comment.

The billionaire has extensive business interests in the country and told Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday that his firm was "willing to continue to expand its business in China", according to the foreign ministry.

Musk's work in China has raised eyebrows in Washington, with President Joe Biden saying in November the Twitter owner's links to foreign countries were "worthy" of scrutiny.

The tycoon has also caused controversy by suggesting the self-ruled island of Taiwan should become part of China -- a stance welcomed by Chinese officials but which deeply angered Taipei.

Musk is one of a number of Western executives to visit China since the country ended strict Covid controls that saw it largely closed off from the world for almost three years.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said this week that Beijing welcomed visits by international executives "to better understand China and promote mutually beneficial cooperation".

In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Beijing, saying his company enjoyed a "symbiotic" relationship with China.


Tesla’s Musk Hails China’s ‘Vitality’ on Beijing Visit

Residents walk past a Tesla showroom in Beijing, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)
Residents walk past a Tesla showroom in Beijing, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)
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Tesla’s Musk Hails China’s ‘Vitality’ on Beijing Visit

Residents walk past a Tesla showroom in Beijing, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)
Residents walk past a Tesla showroom in Beijing, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)

Elon Musk praised China's "vitality and promise" on Wednesday, Beijing said, during a trip to China in which he has met multiple government officials and reportedly declared he will expand his business there.

 

The mercurial tycoon, one of the world's richest men, is on his first trip to China in over three years.

 

He met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao in Beijing on Wednesday, praising "the vitality and potential of China's development", according to a ministry readout of the meeting.

 

Musk "expressed full confidence in the China market, and was willing to continue deepening mutually beneficial cooperation".

 

He also said "China-US relations are not a zero-sum game", the readout added, and thanked China for "the support and guarantees it provided for Tesla's Shanghai factory during the Covid-19 pandemic", when it was placed under strict lockdowns.

 

Musk has extensive business interests in the country and told Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday that his firm was "willing to continue to expand its business in China", according to the foreign ministry.

 

Musk and Tesla have not released any statement themselves on the trip or responded to AFP requests for comment.

 

Chinese media reported that Tesla welcomed its CEO to Beijing on Tuesday with a 16-course dinner that included seafood, New Zealand lamb and traditional Beijing-style soybean paste noodles.

 

Musk also met Industry Minister Jin Zhuanglong in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss "the development of new energy vehicles and intelligent connected vehicles", the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a readout.

 

On Wednesday evening the tycoon was seen boarding his private plane at Beijing's Capital International Airport.

 

He is next expected to visit his factory in Shanghai, Bloomberg reported, citing sources, and potentially meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

 

China is the world's biggest electric vehicle market and Tesla announced in April it would build a second massive factory in Shanghai, after its Gigafactory that broke ground in 2019.

 

Deep business ties

 

In his meeting with Qin on Tuesday, Musk expressed his opposition to any economic "decoupling" between China and the United States, Beijing said.

 

"The interests of the United States and China are intertwined, like conjoined twins, who are inseparable from each other," Musk said.

 

Musk's extensive business ties to China have raised eyebrows in Washington, with President Joe Biden saying in November the executive's links to foreign countries were "worthy" of scrutiny.

 

He has also caused controversy by suggesting the self-ruled island of Taiwan should become part of China -- a stance welcomed by Chinese officials but which deeply angered Taipei.

 

Musk is one of a number of Western executives to visit China since the country ended strict Covid controls that saw it largely closed off from the world for almost three years.

 

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said this week that Beijing welcomed visits by international executives "to better understand China and promote mutually beneficial cooperation".

 

In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Beijing, saying his company enjoyed a "symbiotic" relationship with China.

 

That same month, Albert Bourla, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, also paid a visit to the Chinese capital.


EU Tech Chief Calls for Voluntary AI Code of Conduct Within Months 

European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager speaks to the press at the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting in the Kulturens hus in Lulea, Sweden, on May 31, 2023. (AFP)
European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager speaks to the press at the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting in the Kulturens hus in Lulea, Sweden, on May 31, 2023. (AFP)
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EU Tech Chief Calls for Voluntary AI Code of Conduct Within Months 

European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager speaks to the press at the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting in the Kulturens hus in Lulea, Sweden, on May 31, 2023. (AFP)
European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager speaks to the press at the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting in the Kulturens hus in Lulea, Sweden, on May 31, 2023. (AFP)

The United States and European Union should push the artificial intelligence (AI) industry to adopt a voluntary code of conduct within months to provide safeguards while new laws are developed, EU tech chief Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday.

The European Union's AI Act, with rules on facial recognition and biometric surveillance, could be the world's first comprehensive legislation governing the technology, but is still going through the legislative process.

"In the best of cases it will take effect in two and a half to three years’ time. That is obviously way too late," Vestager told reporters before a meeting of the joint EU-U.S Trade and Technology Council in Sweden. "We need to act now."

EU industry chief Thierry Breton said last week that Alphabet and the European Commission aimed to develop an AI pact as concerns mount about the impact on society particularly from generative AI, like ChapGPT, that create content.

Leaders of the G7 nations called earlier this month for the development of technical standards to keep AI "trustworthy", urging international discussions on topics such as governance, copyrights, transparency and the threat of disinformation

Vestager said there needed to be agreement on specifics, not just general statements, suggesting the European Union and the United States could help drive the process.

"If the two of us take the lead with close friends, I think we can push something that will make us all much more comfortable with the fact that generative AI is now in the world and is developing at amazing speeds," she said.

Vestager, a European Commission vice president, said a code of conduct come emerge quickly while governments and legislators from the EU to Canada to India establish rules.

"That is the kind of speed you need, to discuss in the coming weeks, a few months, and of course also involve industry ... in order for society to trust what is ongoing," she said.


China's Baidu Launches $145 Million Venture Capital AI Fund

FILE PHOTO: Baidu's logo is pictured at the 2018 Baidu World conference and exhibit to showcase its latest AI technology in Beijing, China, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Baidu's logo is pictured at the 2018 Baidu World conference and exhibit to showcase its latest AI technology in Beijing, China, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
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China's Baidu Launches $145 Million Venture Capital AI Fund

FILE PHOTO: Baidu's logo is pictured at the 2018 Baidu World conference and exhibit to showcase its latest AI technology in Beijing, China, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Baidu's logo is pictured at the 2018 Baidu World conference and exhibit to showcase its latest AI technology in Beijing, China, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Chinese search giant Baidu Inc will set up a venture capital fund of 1 billion yuan ($145 million) to back start-ups focused on content generated by artificial intelligence applications, it said on Wednesday.

The company will also launch a competition for developers to build applications off its ERNIE large language model (LLM) or integrate the model into their existing products, it added.

Chinese tech companies have raced to release their own LLMs following the dramatic success of ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot released by Microsft-backed OpenAI, Reuters reported.

Almost 80 organizations in China have launched their own LLMs since 2020, with releases this year slightly exceeding those of the United States, a report showed this week.

In March, Baidu unveiled Ernie Bot, its own AI-powered LLM. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd was among the other Chinese companies that followed quickly.

In response to the surge of LLMs, China published draft regulations in April on the use of generative AI.


UAE Government Launches AI-powered Chatbot Platform

The platform was designed to address a wide range of inquiries and requests, from simple information to more complex service inquiries. WAM
The platform was designed to address a wide range of inquiries and requests, from simple information to more complex service inquiries. WAM
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UAE Government Launches AI-powered Chatbot Platform

The platform was designed to address a wide range of inquiries and requests, from simple information to more complex service inquiries. WAM
The platform was designed to address a wide range of inquiries and requests, from simple information to more complex service inquiries. WAM

The “U-Ask” platform, a unified AI-powered chatbot for government services, is now available on the official portal of the UAE Government, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported Tuesday.

Using generative AI technology, the platform allows users to access information about government services in one place in both Arabic and English, including service requirements, relevant information based on their preferences, and direct links for applications, WAM said.

Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and The Future and Chairperson of the Higher Committee for Government Digital Transformation, said the platform would enable the Committee to achieve its goal of advancing the government’s digital efforts, integrating and coordinating its projects, and improving the efficiency of its systems.

Al Roumi added that the UAE Government’s digital system is constantly being improved by the committee, which involves upgrading relevant infrastructure and systems in line with its pledge to offer streamlined services that meet people’s needs.

Chief of Government Services for the UAE Government Mohamed bin Taliah said users could easily and flexibly access government services through the chatbot platform.

The UAE government aims to provide a smoother, simpler user experience, he added, noting that government services in the UAE serve different groups and sectors both inside and outside the country, and this 24/7 information and support service is a new step for the UAE’s global leadership in providing the best government services.

The platform was designed to address a wide range of inquiries and requests, from simple information to more complex service inquiries. It also provides comprehensive answers, including basic information and available ways to apply for services.

The platform was developed in partnership with Microsoft and PwC Middle East and can provide personalized recommendations and suggestions based on users' preferences and previous interactions.


Elon Musk Kicks off China Visit, Tesla Expansion in Focus

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang meets Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk in Beijing, China, in this handout image released by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs May 30, 2023. (China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters)
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang meets Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk in Beijing, China, in this handout image released by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs May 30, 2023. (China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters)
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Elon Musk Kicks off China Visit, Tesla Expansion in Focus

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang meets Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk in Beijing, China, in this handout image released by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs May 30, 2023. (China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters)
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang meets Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk in Beijing, China, in this handout image released by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs May 30, 2023. (China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters)

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk on Tuesday kicked off a high-stakes visit to China with a meeting with the country's foreign minister in Beijing, marking his return to the electric carmaker's largest production hub after three years.

The trip is the latest return by a top US CEO to China since the country reopened its borders and reversed its zero-COVID policy in December. Apple's Tim Cook visited in March, while JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and Starbucks' Laxman Narasimhan are also in China this week.

Musk met Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang hours after landing in Beijing.

Qin told Musk China was committed to improving the business environment for investors, including Tesla, and used an elaborate driving metaphor to describe China-US relations, according to a statement from his ministry.

"We must step on the brake in time, avoid dangerous driving and be skillful at using the accelerator to promote mutually beneficial cooperation," Qin said.

The foreign ministry quoted Musk as saying he was willing to expand business in China and opposed a decoupling of the US and China economies, adding he described the world's two largest economies "conjoined twins."

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on Musk's trip, his itinerary or his meeting with Qin. China is Tesla's second-largest market after the United States.

Musk, who also owns Twitter, was quiet on the platform after arriving in China, where Twitter is banned but accessible to some users through a virtual private network. He had not posted on his official Weibo account either.

He is expected to meet other senior Chinese officials and visit Tesla's Shanghai plant during his trip, Reuters reported on Monday, though it was not clear who exactly he would meet or what issues they would discuss.

A source with knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday that a meeting with Zeng Yuqun, chairman of CATL, the Chinese battery giant and a key Tesla supplier, was also planned in Beijing. CATL did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters reported in March that Musk had been planning a trip to China and seeking a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

In a 2019 trip to China, Musk met with then-Premier Li Keqiang. A year later, he created a buzz on Chinese social media for dancing onstage to celebrate the opening of Tesla's Shanghai factory.

Increasing competition for Tesla

Tesla faces intensifying competition from Chinese-made electric vehicles and some uncertainty about expansion plans for the Shanghai plant, its largest production hub.

Tesla investors have questioned whether and by how much the electric carmaker will increase output in Shanghai.

Investment firm Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said he expected Tesla to "aggressively focus on building out its China footprint".

Despite increasing competition, China's market for electric vehicles, the world's largest, has become "the golden goose EV market", he said, a reference to a source of continued profit.

He called Tesla's Shanghai plant "the heart and lungs" of the company's global production in a note for investors.

Another issue for investors is whether China regulators will clear the release of Tesla's advanced driver assistance features available in the United States as part of the "Full Self Driving" software it sells for $15,000 per vehicle.

Musk's space company, SpaceX, and the military applications of its Starlink satellite network have also been watched with interest and concern by Chinese researchers since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

State-owned Chinese companies are rushing to follow Starlink by launching their own low-Earth orbit, communications satellites. Chinese military researchers have studied Starlink as a potentially threatening technology, according to research reviewed by Reuters.