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Back to being the richest man in the world: what happened during Elon Musk’s visit to China

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has recently wrapped up his first visit to China in three years. The trip was seen as a crucial one for the billionaire entrepreneur, as China is a critical market for Tesla and a key player in the global space race.

Musk’s visit coincided with his reclaiming of the title of the world’s richest person, after his net worth surged to $286 billion on Tuesday, surpassing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Musk’s wealth has been boosted by the soaring stock price of Tesla, which has more than doubled in the past year.

A warm welcome

Musk received a warm welcome from Chinese officials and media during his visit. He met with Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang in Beijing on Tuesday, who praised him as a “pioneer” and called him “Brother Ma” – a reference to Alibaba’s Jack Ma. Qin also told Musk that China was committed to improving the business environment for investors, including Tesla, and expressed hope for better relations between China and the U.S.

Musk reportedly said he was willing to expand business in China and opposed a decoupling of the U.S. and China economies, adding he described the world’s two largest economies as “conjoined twins”.

Musk also met with China’s minister of industry and information technology, Jin Zhuanglong, on Wednesday, and discussed topics such as Tesla’s development in China and global supply chain issues.

A lavish dinner

Musk enjoyed a 16-course meal at an upscale restaurant Man Fu Yan in Beijing on Tuesday night, along with Zeng Yuqun, the founder of battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), a key Tesla supplier. The menu appears to have been custom made for Musk and was emblazoned with Tesla’s logo, according to photos posted on social media.

The dishes included braised sea cucumber with scallion sauce, steamed abalone with garlic sauce, crispy roast duck, fried rice with crab meat and egg white, and double-boiled bird’s nest soup. The meal reportedly cost about 10,000 yuan ($1,570) per person.

A factory visit

Musk also visited Tesla’s Shanghai plant during his trip, where he met with local government officials and Tesla employees. He praised the work of the Shanghai team and said he was impressed by the quality and efficiency of the factory.

He also took time to interact with some of the workers at the plant, taking selfies and signing autographs. He even ate burgers with them at a nearby restaurant, according to local media reports.

Tesla’s Shanghai factory is its largest production hub outside the U.S., and has been ramping up output to meet the growing demand for electric vehicles in China. The factory produces two models: the Model 3 sedan and the Model Y SUV.

A mixed bag

Despite Musk’s positive reception in China, Tesla faces some challenges in the country. The company has faced scrutiny from regulators over issues such as data security, customer service and vehicle quality. It has also faced increasing competition from domestic rivals such as Nio, Xpeng and Li Auto, which have been gaining market share with their cheaper and more localized offerings.

Tesla has also been affected by the global chip shortage that has disrupted the auto industry. The company had to temporarily halt production at its Shanghai plant in April due to supply chain problems.

However, Tesla still enjoys a loyal fan base in China, and has maintained its lead in the premium electric vehicle segment. The company sold 33,463 vehicles in China in April, up 29% from March, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association.

Musk has said he hopes to make Tesla’s vehicles more affordable and accessible to more people in China. He has also expressed interest in launching SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service in China, which could provide high-speed connectivity to rural areas.

Musk’s visit to China may have helped him strengthen his ties with the country and showcase his vision for the future of transportation and space exploration. It remains to be seen how his relationship with China will evolve as both sides face complex challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing world.

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