Elon Musk’s tweet about the origins of covid-19 evoked by China’s state media


Chinese state media this week called out Elon Musk for responding to a report about the origins of the coronavirus, possibly hinting at a tense relationship between Tesla’s CEO and the country where many of the auto parts are produced.

The Global Times, a state-backed newspaper known for its aggressive view of U.S.-China relations, posted a social media essay this week criticizing Musk for pushing a “conspiracy theory” about the coronavirus.

“At the same time, these comments of his have been continuously used by those US right-wing and anti-China media outlets hostile to China as material to entrap China,” the publication wrote.

Musk was responding to a tweet that advanced an unfounded conspiracy theory that Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s former chief medical adviser, funded the creation of the coronavirus.

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“He did it through a conduit (EcoHealth),” Musk responded in a tweet. Musk has previously pushed back on covid restrictions during the pandemic and called for Fauci to be prosecuted. He also said last year that China’s “zero covid policy,” which was relaxed late last year, made things difficult for Tesla.

Tensions with China could cost Musk dearly. In China, companies making comments deemed hostile by Beijing are quick targets of restrictions crippling their operations in the country. China accounts for about 40 percent of Tesla’s sales, and the company has one of its largest factories in Shanghai.

The outspoken leader of Twitter and Tesla has already faced criticism from advocacy groups and some users since taking over the social media site last year, in part for reinstating controversial banned accounts and most recently for defending “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams after several newspapers the strip in response to racist tweets from Adams. Musk has become a polarizing figure — some conservative leaders have praised his pledge to prioritize “free speech” online, but critics have raised concerns that his policies could increase hate speech on the site.

Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CNBC previously reported on the Global Times post.

In the Global Times post, the publication accused Musk of reposting a “conspiracy theory that defames China.” It refers to Fauci’s baseless allegations, which surfaced again after a report that the US energy department concluded that the pandemic was likely caused by a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan. (There are two primary theories about how the coronavirus infected people, according to The Washington Post’s Philip Bump.)

Musk’s liberal view of world affairs has at times drawn admiration in Beijing, though the latest condemnation highlights the tenuous terms of the relationship.

Last October, he garnered praise from China’s then-ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, now China’s foreign minister, after Tesla’s CEO proposed giving Chinese authorities more control over Taiwan in the form of a special economic zone. The remarks were sharply criticized by Taiwanese officials.

Musk’s critique of US institutions has also been embraced by Beijing. Last week, China’s foreign ministry released a list of US “hegemonic” wrongdoings, citing Musk’s allegations of government censorship on Twitter as evidence of the US’s chronic “abuse” of the international community.






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