Hong Kong (CNN) – Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company’s cars would never be used for spying in China, in response to reports that the Chinese military has banned the vehicles due to these concerns.
“There is a very strong incentive for us to be very secretive with any information. If Tesla uses cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will stop our business,” Musk said on Saturday at the China Development Forum, an annual conference organized by a unit of the State Council. .
Reuters and Bloomberg had reported hours before his statements that the Chinese army prevented “Tesla” cars from entering their compounds, expressing his concerns about the presence of cameras equipped on board.
The Wall Street Journal also reported, Friday, that the government has restricted “military personnel and employees of major state-owned companies” from driving the American company’s cars, citing concerns that the data collected by the cars could be a source of national security leaks.
Previous media published the news, citing unnamed sources, while the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNN.
Speaking on a video call on Saturday, Musk compared the controversy to that of TikTok last year, a company he said was not “trusted.” The ByteDance-owned app faced calls to be banned in the United States last year for alleged national security reasons.
Musk said, “The United States wanted to ban Tik Tok. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. A lot of people were worried about Tik Tok. But I think that this kind of anxiety is not necessary, and we should learn lessons from it.”
Tesla has achieved great success in China in recent years, especially after it built the giant Shanghai plant. In 2019, the company began manufacturing cars there to consolidate its presence in the world’s largest auto market, and Musk even described the plant as a “future growth model”. The company was able to retain full control of the project, which was unusual at the time, and it has enjoyed strong government support in recent years.
But the US automaker also attracted scrutiny from regulators recently, leading some observers to question whether its private relationship with officials has ended, after Chinese officials last month summoned Tesla to face questions about the quality of its Shanghai-built cars.