By: Jianli Yang & Evan Osborne | Oct 12, 2022

Elon Musk’s decision to reverse course and offer to complete his $44 billion purchase of Twitter has again garnered concern about how his business interests in China could potentially affect his proclaimed approach to free speech on the social media platform, both inside and outside of China.

As the sole owner of this global public square of speech, Musk inevitably will be entangled with regimes that are hostile to free speech and to the human rights of their people. In particular, he controls Tesla, the electric-vehicle producer. Before its cars roll off the assembly line, they incorporate parts, notably batteries, that depend substantially on minerals extracted and processed in China. Tesla runs a state-of-the-art factory in Shanghai, and recently announced plans to build a second factory. The Chinese are significant buyers of the company’s final product; the country is Tesla’s second-largest market after the U.S.

The scale of Musk’s operations in China could make him vulnerable to intimidation by its communist leadership. It is one thing to buy outright a social media company in a country where the government poses no threat to free speech. It is another to buy it when entangled with one of the world’s most repressive governments, which has a history of forcing private companies to serve its interests. Musk has said he wants to create “the everything app” and that he admires China’s WeChat, owned by Tencent… [Continue Reading]