Elon Musk Says The Chinese Government Doesn’t Want Him To Sell Starlink In China

Elon Musk stated last week in an interview with the Financial Times that officials in the Chinese government have requested him personally to deny Starlink access within China. According to the Financial Times, “Beijing has made clear its disapproval of his recent rollout of Starlink in Ukraine” and “sought assurances he would not sell Starlink in China,” Musk said.

It’s unclear whether Musk agreed to Beijing’s request based on the description, but Starlink’s service map shows no intentions to deploy in China. Instead, Taiwan, Mongolia, and Vietnam are among the countries listed as “pending regulatory approval.”

Starlink, which provides an internet connection that avoids conventional service providers, has been a popular idea for evading network-based censorship worldwide. For example, Starlink has enabled connectivity in Iran due to significant demonstrations and censorship.

However, Internet censorship in China is significantly more organized and persistent, and any continued attempt to dodge it via Starlink would almost certainly result in reprisal from the central government.

This episode highlights Musk’s vulnerability to international demands, despite his support for free speech values. According to the Financial Times, Tesla maintains a facility in Shanghai and has reportedly sold over 80,000 cars in China. As a result, Musk has remained closely aligned with the Chinese government, including writing a column for a magazine operated by the country’s internet censorship agency.

Musk, who relies on China for more than 20% of Tesla’s revenue, refused to tell the Financial Times whether he had agreed to Beijing’s request.

According to Chinese state media, SpaceX has no intentions of applying for an operating license in China.

Internet access is only available through state-owned servers in China, and it is severely filtered and limited.

The world’s third-largest country has also been pushing its technologies. According to CNBC, China Mobile and Huawei, both located in China, have led the government to have one of the world’s greatest penetrations of 5G internet.

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