Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos posed a provocative question after Elon Musk clinched a $44 billion takeover of Twitter Inc.: whether that will make things difficult for Tesla Inc. in China.
In a series of tweets, Bezos drew attention to the EV giant’s close ties with China, the world’s biggest electric vehicle market and home to Tesla’s first overseas factory. About half the company’s cars sold globally last year were produced at its plant in Shanghai, and Musk has said that figure may double.
“Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” tweeted Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.
“My own answer to this question is probably not,” he added in a followup. “The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter.”
A representative of Musk’s family office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours.
Musk championed free speech on the platform in one of his first tweets after sealing the take-private deal. But Twitter — like most American social media platforms — is banned in China by officials wary of the impact on public discourse.
Tesla has boomed in China thanks in part to tax breaks, cheap loans and the green light to wholly own its domestic operations. But the company last year came under fire after state media and regulators questioned Tesla’s attitude toward customers. Bezos’s company also operates in the country, but it’s a distant competitor to local leaders Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and JD.com Inc.
I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022