Elon Musk says Beijing disapproved of sending Starlink to Ukraine, wanted him to promise he wouldn't sell satellite internet to China

Elon Musk says Beijing disapproved of sending Starlink to Ukraine, wanted him to promise he wouldn’t sell satellite internet to China

  • Elon Musk told the Financial Times that China does not approve of his decision to send Starlink to Ukraine.
  • The communist nation also asked the billionaire not to sell Starlink in China, Musk said.
  • Musk has close ties to China, one of Tesla’s main markets and export centers.

Elon Musk said China clearly disapproves of his decision to send SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service to Ukraine.

The billionaire told the Financial Times in a recent interview that Beijing asked him to promise that he would not sell Starlink in China.

In February, two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Musk sent Ukraine a shipment of Starlink satellite internet antennas. It was the first of many expeditions to the country that have helped Ukraine stay connected amid attacks from Russia and the hacking of the satellite provider for its military.

From the start, Ukrainian officials and military leaders hailed the move, with one US general saying Starlink “totally destroyed Putin’s information campaign” and was trying to silence Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

But recently FT reported that Ukrainian forces have been dealing with outages to their Starlink devices on the front line in recent weeks. Roman Sinicyn, coordinator of a foundation that donates Starlink systems to Ukraine’s armed forces, told the publication that the outages are the result of SpaceX officials trying to stop the Russians from using the technology.

Musk has since also activated Starlink in Iran amid widespread protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody. Residents in the country have reported internet outages and Iranian police have denied that Amini was abused.

Satellite internet service is available in about 40 countries, but SpaceX has yet to sell Starlink in China. Chinese state media reported that SpaceX has no plans to apply for an operating license in China. Internet service in China is only available through public providers and access is strictly censored.

The Tesla CEO relies heavily on China, the world’s biggest electric car market. In 2018, Musk launched a factory in Shanghai. Since then, the factory has become one of Tesla’s main export hubs. Last year, half of Tesla’s global shipments came from China.

The billionaire has publicly praised China in the past and recently wrote an article for China’s internet regulator.

“Chinese companies will be a force to be reckoned with in the cause of energy innovation,” Musk reportedly wrote in the article.

FT said the billionaire seemed hesitant to comment on growing tensions between the United States and China, but said he believed there would eventually be a dispute with the communist country over Taiwan.

“Apple will be in big trouble, that’s for sure,” Musk said, noting that he believed the global economy would drop 30%. However, the billionaire said Tesla’s Shanghai factory will still be able to sell cars in China.

Last week, the billionaire also weighed in on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, suggesting that citizens of the occupied territories should vote on which country they would prefer to live in. His suggestion was strongly criticized. Even Zelenskyy mocked Musk’s attempt to resolve a real-world crisis on Twitter.

“Which @elonmusk do you like the most?” Zelenskyy asked, with a poll. “Whoever supports Ukraine. Whoever supports Russia.”

Musk’s comments on Ukraine were also criticized by leading Chinese propagandist Hu Xijin.

“Elon Musk has exposed his personality too much, and he believes too much in the ‘freedom of speech’ of the United States and the West. He will be taught a lesson,” Hu reportedly wrote.

Read FT’s full interview with Musk on his website.

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