“Do you want Tesla to accept Doge?” – the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, asked his millions of Twitter followers on May 11th.
Just a day later, he announced Tesla will no longer accept bitcoin, with this turnaround within hours surprising many and giving rise to speculation on what was really going on.
Not least because within days there was an official announcement of what had been rumored in China.
The China Internet Finance Association, the China Banking Association, and the China Payment and Clearing Association ordered financial institutions to not engage in crypto transactions and to take action if they suspect a transaction is crypto related.
China then embarked on a month long gradual kicking out of miners, while Musk on Twitter criticized bitcoin and then went on to cause some chaos by pumping tokens like cumrocket.
That’s after he went on Saturday Night Live and called dogecoin a hustle, with Musk appearing to indicate cryptos are a bit of a joke to him.
There is no evidence however there was any pressure by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to stop Tesla from accepting bitcoin, but the timing is a significant coincidence especially considering China is a huge market for the car manufacturer, with Tesla exporting from Shanghai to Europe.
Tesla Bends the Knee?
Accepting crypto payments has been prohibited in China since 2013, with it unclear whether this prohibition played a role in Tesla reversing course especially as CCP found it necessary to re-iterate the prohibition around the same time as Tesla stopped accepting bitcoin.
China makes up some 30% of their car sales, and in 2017 Musk met with Vice Premier Wang Yang (pictured), described as one of China’s foremost economic decision-makers.
This was the first time Wang met one to one with an automotive CEO, generally preferring group dynamics.
More recently Tesla unveiled what it claims is the longest supercharging route in China, a 5,000 kilometer (3,100 mile) stretch spanning the vast nation from east to west that’s studded with 27 electric-car charging stations along the way.
Then Musk took to Weibo yesterday to express congratulations in a reply to a speech by China’s president Xi Jinping.
“The economic prosperity that China has achieved is truly amazing, especially in infrastructure! I encourage everyone to visit and see for themselves,” Musk said in both english and Chinese.
In that speech, Jinping subtly scapegoated the west, stating it had plunged China “into darkness” in 1840 and then the party came to provide national rejuvenation.
In the one hour long speech he did not credit the west even a little bit for the economic success built on massive foreign investment, stating instead that the party and only the party had achieved all this.
“At the fundamental level, the capability of our Party and the strengths of socialism with Chinese characteristics are attributable to the fact that Marxism works,” Jinping said when some describe this one party system webbed into businesses more as fascism.
He also said “the Party came to recognize the irrefutable truth that it must command the gun.” In a coming out party of sorts he made clear his intentions: “We will work to build a new type of international relations… we will oppose hegemony.”
In claiming moral superiority, he said: “We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will.”
Plenty of course pointed to Tibet or the Uighurs in Xinjiang who were promised a referendum on independence for their support of the CCP before they came to power and now are in concentration camps.
The crashing of liberal democracy in Hong Kong despite the whole city taking to the streets, is the latest such oppression and subjugation, with China only recently bullying effectively all countries in the South China Sea as it expands its land grab.
In addition if companies like Tesla willingly abide by Party restrictions globally, then they may indirectly oppress the entire world as Jinping also said:
“We must work hard to root out any elements that would harm the Party’s advanced nature and purity and any viruses that would erode its health.”
In a section of his speech that may as well have come out from 1984, Jinping stated:
“Acting on the purpose of the Party, you should always maintain close ties with the people, empathize and work with them, stand with them through good times and bad, and continue working tirelessly to realize their aspirations for a better life and to bring still greater glory to the Party and the people.”
He finished with: “Long live our great, glorious, and correct Party!” Not China, but the Party with all this being an official translation by the CCP.
In his hour long speech he mentioned democracy five times, and always in a good light, yet the unchallenged one party system in China extends its authoritarianism even to companies of all sizes.
“In a workplace with three or more party members, they should, with approval from a higher level, form a branch or, with 100 or more members, a committee,” the Economist reports.
This effectively gives CCP direct control within companies, making them all subordinate to the Party on a daily basis.
If Musk is cozying up to the CCP, a lot more worrying might be any divulging of SpaceX tech with recent reports suggesting China has showcased an “almost like-for-like copy of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft renders.”
Where they got the knowhow to make this copy clone is not clear, with Jinping stating: “We have constantly consolidated and developed the broadest possible united front.”
That’s a web of Party members that CCP taps into globally, with some speculating it was them buying masks and other PPE en mass in Europe and North America to send them to China just days before the pandemic hit the west, clearing off the shelves and leaving doctors and nurses especially in UK without protection.
This direct influence and the more indirect pressure on companies to apply Chinese law globally may well be what Jinping means by opposing hegemony.
That can be shown perhaps by Musk never mentioning bitcoin or cryptos in his Weibo account, with it unclear whether that silencing extended to Tesla’s decision itself on whether to accept bitcoin or not.