China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday there was no basis to speculation that Beijing could try to use leverage over electric car maker Tesla in order to influence content on US social media site Twitter.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was responding to a question during a regular daily briefing on Tuesday, after Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk struck a deal on Monday to buy Twitter. Roughly half the cars Tesla sold globally last year were made at its plant in Shanghai.
Meanwhile, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Monday asked in a post on Twitter if Elon Musk’s $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,36,400 crore) cash deal to buy Twitter gives China “a bit of leverage over the town square”.
Twitter is blocked in China, where Musk, the world’s richest person, has key business interests. Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist and has criticised Twitter’s content moderation policy, reached a deal on Monday to buy the social media platform.
Political activists expect that Musk’s ownership of Twitter will mean less moderation and reinstatement of banned individuals including former US President Donald Trump.
There are also questions on what the deal will mean for Twitter’s China content policy as Musk’s Tesla relies heavily on China for production and vehicle sales.
“Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” Bezos tweeted late on Monday.
“My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter,” he later tweeted.
Musk said in a tweet on Monday: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
© Thomson Reuters 2022