Su Tseng-chang, the premier of Taiwan, has said Elon Musk “doesn’t know much” about the self-ruled island, after the billionaire suggested it should become a “special administrative zone” of China similar to Hong Kong.
The world’s richest man, whose Tesla electric car company operates a large factory in China, has sparked anger in Taiwan over a recent interview he gave to the Financial Times which touched on the island’s often tense relationship with Beijing.
“Musk is a businessman,” Su, Taiwan’s most senior politician after President Tsai Ing-wen, told a parliamentary session on Tuesday. “He has a big car factory in Shanghai and he wants to promote his electric vehicles … a businessman may say this today and say that tomorrow,” said the premier, the highest-ranking official yet to address Musk’s comments.
“Musk only speaks for himself but he really doesn’t know much about Taiwan and he also doesn’t understand cross-strait relations,” Su added.
Musk, in the Financial Times interview that was published on Friday, said he believed Taiwan should strike a “reasonably palatable” agreement with Beijing.
“My recommendation … would be to figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably palatable, probably won’t make everyone happy,” he added.
“And it’s possible, and I think probably, in fact, that they could have an arrangement that’s more lenient than Hong Kong.”
Beijing, which claims Taiwan as one of its provinces, has long promised to bring the island under its control and has not ruled out the use of force to do so.
Democratically-ruled Taiwan’s government strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s 23 million people can decide its future.
China has offered Taiwan a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy similar to what Hong Kong has, but that has been rejected by all mainstream political parties in Taiwan and has very little public support, especially after Beijing imposed a tough National Security Law in Hong Kong in 2020.
Qin Gang, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, took to Twitter on Saturday to thank Musk for his “call for peace”.
“Peaceful reunification and One Country, Two Systems are our basic principles for resolving the Taiwan question,” he said, adding that peaceful reunification was also “conducive to peace and development in the Asia-Pacific and the wider world”.
Another Musk controversy
Musk is a notoriously outspoken business figure, especially on Twitter, where he frequently wades into social and geopolitical causes.
Last week, Musk became embroiled in a social media spat with Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, over his ideas on ending Russia’s invasion.
Musk proposed a peace deal involving rerunning under the United Nations supervision annexation referendums in Russia-occupied Ukrainian regions, acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula and giving Ukraine neutral status.
Zelenskyy, in his response, posted a poll on Twitter asking online users if they liked Musk who supported Russia or one who supported Ukraine.
The billionaire has previously shown solidarity with Ukraine and provided through his company SpaceX equipment for its Starlink internet service so that the war-torn country could maintain online access to the rest of the world.