BEIJING, May 30 (Reuters) – A private jet used by Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk has arrived in Beijing, according to a Reuters witness.
Musk is expected to meet senior Chinese officials and visit Tesla’s Shanghai plant, sources have said, in what would be his first trip to China in three years.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Musk had arrived in China.
It was not clear who Musk would meet in China’s government and what issues they would discuss. State media had not reported on Musk’s visit as of Tuesday afternoon.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the government welcomed Musk – and other business leaders – looking to promote “mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Reuters reported in March that Musk was planning a trip to China and was seeking a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.
The trip comes at a time when Tesla faces intensifying competition from China-made electric vehicles and some uncertainty about expansion plans for the Shanghai factory complex Musk last visited in early 2020.
China is Tesla’s second-largest market after the U.S., and the Shanghai plant is the electric car maker’s largest production hub.
Key areas of interest for Tesla watchers include the status of its plans to increase output by 450,000 vehicles a year at its Shanghai plant. It said in April it would build a nearby factory to produce Megapack energy storage products.
Another pending question is whether China regulators will clear the release of Tesla’s advanced driver assistance features available in other markets as part of the “Full Self Driving” software it sells for $15,000 per vehicle.
Musk’s private jet, a 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, was shown leaving Alaska on Tuesday morning Asia time before crossing over Japan and South Korea, according to ADS-B Exchange, a flight aggregation website.
The jet with its identifying tail number could be seen at Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday, according to the Reuters witness.
While his plane was en route to China, Musk tweeted about advances in China’s space program, which aims to land a crew on the moon before 2030.
“The Chinese space program is far more advanced than most people realize,” he said.
Musk’s space company, SpaceX, and the military applications of its Starlink satellite network have been watched with interest and concern by Chinese researchers since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
State-owned Chinese companies are rushing to follow Starlink by launching their own low-Earth orbit, communications satellites. Chinese military researchers have studied Starlink as a potentially threatening technology, according to research reviewed by Reuters.
Reporting by Tingshu Wang and Josh Arslan in Beijing and Zhang Yan in Shanghai; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Edwina Gibbs
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.