Elon Musk pursues win-win-win amid U.S.-China existential showdown

Special to CosmicTribune.com, May 1, 2024


By Richard Fisher

Elon Musk’s “surprise” April 28 visit to China to meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, blowing off a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a continuation of the strategy he has employed to rise above, even to survive near-violent U.S.-China strategic contest: Increase his equities with both.

As sales are flagging in China and the United States, saving his Tesla electronic vehicle (EV) company was the goal for his latest visit, and China apparently has thrown Musk a rope.

China gave tentative approval for a deal with Chinese big data giant Baidu to increase Tesla’s competitiveness in China by enabling Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) automobiles.

Tesla and SpaceX owner Elon Musk meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on April 28, 2024. / Xinhua

This was accomplished by giving Tesla a license to collect driving data on China’s roads via Baidu’s lane-level navigation system.

One concern is that by having access to this sector of “Big Data” in China, might oblige Musk be to provide Baidu with the ever-increasing data base derived from Tesla FSD automobiles that could soon be operating in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Baidu is perhaps the closest Chinese equivalent to the more globally pervasive American Google search engine and big data company, and like Google, Baidu is a real competitor in the mastery of Large Language Models (LLMs), or artificial neural networks — to include the massive algorithms at the center of early Artificial Intelligence (AI) products like ChatGPT.

Superiority in Big Data is one key to creating better AI products, such as combat-winning unmanned fighters and bombers, unmanned ground fighting vehicles and combat-winning humanoid robots.

Or even AI-enabled unmanned combat satellite-stations armed with laser weapons capable of taking down 42,000 mega-satellite constellations, like, perhaps when fully lofted, Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite-internet in Low Earth Orbit.

So, it is no surprise that while the Chinese government has been increasingly critical of Musk’s Starlink, for its role creating hazards for Chinese spacecraft and in helping increase the resilience of governments under attack by Russia and China, namely Ukraine and Taiwan, during Musk’s visit Premier Li Qiang praised Tesla as a “successful model” for U.S.-China collaboration and told Musk he hopes the U.S. will work more on “win-win” cooperation.

In addition, Musk has had to demonstrate considerable deference to China.

In early July 2023 Musk signed a pledge to promote China’s “core socialist values” as part of a pledge with other Chinese car companies to end a price war.

During the Sept. 8-10 “All In Summit” in Los Angeles, Musk explained that it was China’s policy to “reunite” with Taiwan, also saying, “From their standpoint, you know, maybe it’s analogous to like Hawaii or something like that, like an integral part of China that is arbitrarily not part of China mostly because … the US Pacific Fleet has stopped any sort of reunification effort by force.”

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