Elon Musk has become the first foreigner to write for a magazine run by the Chinese government agency that oversees censorship of the internet.
The world’s richest man outlined his plans for colonies on Mars and Tesla robots in millions of homes in a recent column for “China Wangxin,” a magazine launched earlier this year by the Cyberspace Administration of China.
“I am pleased to share with my Chinese friends some of my thoughts on the vision of technology and humanity,” Musk wrote in the column, according to a translated version published by a Chinese state media reporter.
“I also welcome more like-minded Chinese partners to join us in exploring clean energy, artificial intelligence, human-machine collaboration, and space exploration to create a future worth waiting for.”
The move underscores Musk’s deep ties to China as tensions with the US skyrocket. On Sunday, the mogul took to Twitter — a site that’s blocked in China — to celebrate Tesla’s Shanghai factory producing its millionth car.
He has also praised the country’s “amazing” economic progress and avoided criticizing China’s draconian coronavirus lockdowns despite blasting similar curbs in the US as “fascist.”
The Cyberspace Administration of China maintains the country’s heavy-handed online censorship regime, encouraging internet users to report each other for posts that “deny the excellence of advanced socialist culture” and spread “historical nihilistic misrepresentations online,” Reuters reported last year.
The agency also owns stakes in major Chinese tech companies like TikTok owner ByteDance and social network Weibo.
Musk — a self-described “free speech absolutist” — is the first foreigner to write for the agency’s magazine, according to the South China Morning Post, which reported that the monthly publication typically features writing from government officials and executives at state-owned firms. .
The Tesla CEO is far from the first American tech mogul to attempt to court the Chinese government.
In an apparent attempt to get Facebook unblocked in China, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg asked Xi Jinping to pick a name for his unborn firstborn son at an Obama White House dinner — a request that Xi declined.
Zuckerberg also opened a Facebook office in Beijing and reportedly bought copies of Xinping’s book for Facebook employees so they could “understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Yet Facebook and Instagram remain blocked in China — and Meta has pivoted in recent years to criticizing TikTok for its ties to China.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has likewise tried to court China, exploring a plan to launch a censored version of the company’s search engine in 2018 before abandoning the idea later that year.
Musk’s current courtship of China will likely land him in hot water with the US government, according to Trivium China tech policy head Kendra Schaefer.
“Musk is trying to walk the same tightrope that Zuckerberg and Pichai walked before him – but these are different times,” said Schaefer told Bloomberg. “Tech execs trying to maintain healthy relationships in China are increasingly seeing that decision being taken out of their hands by either Chinese regulations, US users, or the US government.
“If Musk isn’t sitting in front of a congressional committee within a year being grilled on his relationship with China, I’ll be flabbergasted.”