Tesla CEO Elon Musk praised China’s work on artificial intelligence during a Thursday event in the country.
Speaking by video to attendees of the state-run World Artificial Intelligence Conference, Musk encouraged Chinese developers to continue advancing the technology. “I admire the Chinese people’s wisdom and determination,” he stated. “As long as the Chinese people decide to do well in one thing, they will, including in AI.” The Tesla CEO went on to predict that the country’s artificial intelligence capabilities will be “very strong.”
Musk’s comments arrive during a time of increased competition in the global automotive market. According to research conducted by AlixPartners, Chinese vehicles will constitute a majority of the country’s annual new car sales for the first time in 2023, ending the uncontested reign of foreign manufacturers. Analysts have also claimed that the rate of China’s technological innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence is on track to outpace that of other countries. But while automotive brands may be concerned about their deteriorating market shares, they also have massive stakes in the nation’s economy. Tesla is no exception. Not only does the company own a major factory in Shanghai, but it is also looking to take advantage of the region’s burgeoning electric vehicle market, which is considered the largest in the world, even as domestic competitors like BYD threaten to overtake American businesses in the segment. The EV business is also betting on the success of self-driving software, which is itself dependent on advancements in artificial intelligence.
The conference where the Tesla chief spoke also comes amidst intensifying political tensions between the U.S. and China well beyond the scope of artificial intelligence and automotive retail. The Biden Administration has aggressively sought to limit the country’s ability to procure semiconductors, although it is unclear if these policies will have an effect in the long term. On the other hand, China has refused to discard allies such as Russia, despite the outcry from Western countries over President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. For as long as the two countries are at odds, Musk, and other domestic car manufacturers, must continue to stay on the good side of both parties due to their dependency on Chinese labor, resources and consumers.