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The Tesla CEO was asked China’s “ethical limitations” in an interview with Business Insider. During the interview, Mr Musk also discussed artificial intelligence and the race between China and the US to develop the futuristic technology.
Mr Musk said he had a positive experience when talking to Chinese government officials during his visits to the country, and said they could “possibly” be “more responsible” to their people’s happiness than the US.
He added: “When I meet with Chinese government officials, they’re always very concerned about this. Are people going to be happy about a thing? Is this going to actually serve the benefit of the people?
“It seems ironic, but even though you have sort of a single-party system, they really actually seem to care a lot about the well-being of the people.
“In fact, they’re maybe even more sensitive to public opinion than what I see in the US.”
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Mathias Döpfner, the Business Insider’s interviewer and CEO of tech company Axel Springer SE, challenged the Tesla CEO over his remarks, decrying China’s human rights record.
He said: “China doesn’t care about human rights. How could there ever be an equal and level playing field. Do you really see an opportunity for Western democracies to win?”
Mr Musk responded, focusing on AI, by touting American tech giants Google and Deepmind’s superiority over similar Chinese outfits.
He then said: “China’s putting a lot of effort into AI. And they may be making progress. But I’ve not seen progress that is close to Google and DeepMind.”
China has previously been praised by Mr Musk in an earlier interview for the Automotive News podcast Daily Drive.
He said in July last year “China rocks in my opinion”, and added: “The energy in China is great. People there – there’s like a lot of smart, hard-working people.”
In the same interview he blasted “entitled’ and “complacent” people in the US, specifically in Los Angeles, California and New York.
He suggested the US has “been winning for too long” with technology, and added: “When you’ve been winning too long you take things for granted.”
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In 2019, Tesla secured around $1.6 billion in loans from the Chinese government to construct and begin making cars in the company’s Shanghai facility.
Mr Musk defended the loan on the Daily Drive podcast and pointed out that while Chinese officials “have been supportive”, they received less assistance than domestic companies.
He also lashed out at the US Government and said: “Tesla has had the least government support of any car company.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Tesla, along with Mr Musk’s other ventures, received $4.9 billion in Government assistance as of May 2015.
Mr Musk saw his personal fortune skyrocket last year, with the Tesla and SpaceX CEO now the second richest man in the world.
Share prices in the electric car company surged last year, leading mr Musk’s net worth to jump to a total of $158 billion.
Tesla shares are “prone to huge swings in price” according to the Wall Street Journal however, and further wild swings in value are expected due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Musk takes no salary from Tesla, and instead is paid with a compensation package released when ambitious performance targets are reached.
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