The suggestion by the world’s richest person, billionaire Elon Musk, that China should “figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan,” was met with angry responses from Taiwan but a nod of approval from Beijing.
During an interview with Britain’s Financial Times on Friday the Tesla and SpaceX founder, who was described as “an admirer of as well as an investor in China” said that he believed a “conflict over Taiwan is inevitable.”
“My recommendation… would be to figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably palatable,” Musk was quoted as saying.
He also suggested that “they could have an arrangement that’s more lenient than Hong Kong.”
The billionaire’s recommendation immediately sparked an outcry in Taiwan, with all the major political parties voicing condemnation.
A legislator from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, Chao Tien-lin, called for a boycott of Tesla’s products “indefinitely” unless the businessman changed his tone about Taiwan.
Chen Chi-mai, mayor of Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan’s economic hub, suggested that Musk could “try it himself, let his company become part of the Chinese economy and see if it works.”
“Then he will understand why his recommendation won’t work with Taiwan,” Chen said.
The island’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said “neither Taiwan nor any other country would accept Musk’s proposal, which is based solely on corporate investment interests.”
“Taiwan occupies a key position in regional democratic politics and the global technology economy,” it said.
“It is not the product of any commercial transaction or acquisition, and it has long rejected any institutional arrangements of the Communist Party of China,” the Council said.
The MAC also pointed out that Taiwan has an important role in the supply chain of high-tech industries such as semiconductors and has been working with Tesla for a long time.
‘High degree of autonomy’
When asked about Elon Musk’s Taiwan recommendation, China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that “the Taiwan question is China’s internal affair.”
“We remain committed to the basic principle of peaceful reunification and One Country, Two Systems,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told a press briefing on Saturday.
On Sunday, Mao elaborated that if “sovereignty, security and development interests are ensured, Taiwan can adopt a high degree of autonomy as a special administrative region.”
“Taiwan’s social system and its way of life will be fully respected and the lawful rights and interests of our Taiwan compatriots will be fully protected,” the spokeswoman said.
“China’s reunification will not undermine any country’s legitimate interests,” Mao Ning said.
In his interview with the FT, Musk said Tesla would be caught up in a conflict over Taiwan, but his company wouldn’t be alone.
“Apple would be in very deep trouble,” he said, adding that the global economy would “take a 30 percent hit.”
Tesla’s Chinese factory in Shanghai reportedly produces 30% to 50% of the company’s total electric car production.
Huang Chun-mei in Taipei contributed to this story.