See Why Elon Musk Faces Backlash Over His Ventures In China

Elon Musk’s journey in China hasn’t gone the way he had planned it to be. Why is he facing backlash for his recent ventures?
From Tesla to SpaceX, Elon Musk’s journey in China hasn’t gone the way he had planned it to be. He might be Time Magazine’s person of the year, but he hasn’t been the flavour of the month in China.

Despite announcing big-time plans for the nation and putting out electrification models that will help Beijing gradually shift to the e-mode of transportation, anger is fuelling against Musk for his recent ventures.
So, what exactly has Elon Musk done to face this backlash? The Indian Express takes a look.
Tesla and its new showroom in Xinjiang
Electric carmaker Tesla drew criticism from activists after opening a showroom in Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, where Chinese officials have conducted a crackdown on Uyghurs. Recently, the car company announced the opening of the new showroom on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, with the message: “Let’t start Xinjiang’s all-electric journey!” news agency Associated Press reported.
The announcement drew condemnation from Muslim activist groups. “No American corporation should be doing business in a region that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “Elon Musk and Tesla must close this new showroom and cease what amounts to economic support for genocide.”

This came at a time when a law passed by US President Joe Biden aimed to prevent goods made by Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups under forced labour in the Xinjiang province from entering the United States. Senator Marco Rubio, who was at the forefront of drafting this law, took to Twitter to slam Tesla’s move. “Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region,” he tweeted.

Also, in early December, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced a US diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, citing the “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang”.

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Berlin. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool Photo via AP, File)

What’s China’s beef with SpaceX?
Following allegations that SpaceX’s satellites threaten the safety of China’s space station, there have been calls for sanctions against Elon Musk’s venture.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a routine news conference on Tuesday that China notified the United Nations on December 3 about two “close encounters” this year between SpaceX’s Starlink satellites and China’s space station. The space station, known as the Tiangong, took evasive maneuvers on July 1 and October 21 to avoid collisions with the satellites, according to the document Beijing submitted to the UN. “The US claims to be a strong advocate for the concept of ‘responsible behavior in outer space,’ but it disregarded its treaty and posed a grave threat to the safety of astronauts,” Zhao said, while referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Beijing’s complaint was widely reported in state media, fanning public outrage against Musk and his companies. On Tuesday, China’s national broadcaster CCTV posted a video online blasting SpaceX, with the hashtag “The United States is bringing its double standards into outer space”.

Some Chinese commentators even suggested that perhaps China could speed up its own satellite deployments to compete with Musk.
Are Tesla and SpaceX the only companies that have faced such issues?
American companies have recently come under a lot of pressure, both from Western organizations and consumers, and from the Chinese government, to take a side on issues, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and the persecution of Uyghurs.

Walmart had come under criticism by China’s anti-corruption watchdog after the retail giant removed products made in Xinjiang from its China-based stores and from Sam’s Club. The agency said in a statement that the company had no “justifiable reason” for stopping the sale of products from an entire region, adding that the decision showed “stupidity and short-sightedness”. “China is Walmart’s second-largest overseas market, if they want to stand firmly in the Chinese market, they need to show enough sincerity and attitude, respect the facts, distinguish right from wrong, respect China’s principles and the feelings of Chinese citizens,” the agency wrote. “If not, Chinese citizens and consumers will use their actions to respond resolutely.”
Before Walmart’s run-in, Intel had apologized to the Chinese public for a public letter to its suppliers asking them to refrain from sourcing from Xinjiang. In March, Hennes & Mauritz AB’s H&M found its presence had been wiped off China’s main e-commerce, ride-hailing, daily-deals and map applications, after the Swedish clothing brand’s decision to stop sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region.

Uyghurs and China
The Uyghurs are a nomadic Turkic people native to China’s northwestern Xinjiang region. Many Uyghurs are Muslim, and their faith has put them at odds with the officially atheistic Chinese Communist Party.
China points to sporadic terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and a Uyghur independence movement as justification for the crackdown. Uyghur activists say years of state-sponsored oppression and discrimination against Uyghurs have fueled grass-roots anger against the government. Ethnic tensions between Uyghurs and China’s majority Han people have long simmered in the region, occasionally breaking out into violence. In 2009, Xinjiang’s capital city, Urumqi, was wracked by riots, resulting in 197 dead and many more injured.

In 2017, Xinjiang began a massive political reeducation program, with more than 1 million Uyghurs from all walks of life taken into detention. The Xinjiang government also rolled out a high-tech surveillance system across the region that tracked Uyghurs’ movements through police checkpoints, facial recognition surveillance cameras and house visits by officials.


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