BEIJING (Reuters) – Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would shut down if its cars were used for spying, in his first comments on news that the Chinese military has banned Tesla from its facilities.
“There is a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential in dealing with any information,” Musk said at a prominent Chinese forum during a virtual discussion. “If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we’d be shut down.”
Sources told Reuters on Friday that the Chinese military had prevented Tesla cars from entering their compounds, citing security concerns about the cameras installed on the vehicles.
The restrictions emerged as senior Chinese and US diplomats were holding a controversial meeting in Alaska, the first personal interaction since US President Joe Biden took office in January.
In his remarks to the China Development Forum, Musk urged increasing mutual trust between the two largest economies in the world. An institution under the State Council is hosting a high-level business meeting.
He was having a panel discussion with Xue Qikun, a Chinese quantum physicist who chairs the Southern University of Science and Technology.
In China, the world’s largest auto market and a major battlefield for electric cars, Tesla sold 147,445 cars last year, 30% of its total global sales. However, it faces more competition this year from local competitors from Nio Inc to Geely.
Musk has made several notable appearances in China, where Tesla manufactures and sells electric vehicles. In 2019, he discussed Mars and AI with outspoken Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
At a handover ceremony last year for the 3-model sedans made in China, Musk danced excitedly on stage, taking off his jacket in what became a storm on social media.
(Covered by: Yili Sun, Cheng Ling, and Ryan Wu; Editing by William Mallard