Elon Musk says Beijing disapproved of him sending Starlink to Ukraine, wanted him to promise he wouldn't sell the satellite internet in China

SpaceX Starlink internet terminal next to CEO Elon Musk.
SpaceX Starlink internet terminal next to CEO Elon Musk.  
  • Elon Musk told Financial Times China did not approve of his decision to send Starlink to Ukraine.

  • The Communist nation has also asked the billionaire not to sell Starlink in China, Musk said.

  • Musk has close ties with China - one of Tesla's top markets and export hubs.

Elon Musk said China clearly disapproved of his decision to send SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service to Ukraine.

The billionaire told Financial Times in a recent interview that Beijing asked for him to promise he wouldn't sell Starlink in China.

In February - two days after Russia invaded Ukraine - Musk sent Ukraine a shipment of Starlink satellite internet dishes. It was the first of many shipments to the country that has helped Ukraine stay connected amid Russia's attacks and a hack on the satellite provider for its military.

Early on, Ukraine officials and military leaders praised the move, with a US general saying Starlink "totally destroyed Putin's information campaign" and attempts to silence Ukraine President Zelenskyy.

But recently, FT reported that Ukrainian forces have faced some outages of their Starlink devices on the frontlines in recent weeks. Roman Sinicyn, a co-ordinator at a foundation that donates Starlink systems to the Ukrainian armed forces, told the publication the outages are the result of SpaceX representatives attempting to prevent Russians from using the technology.

Since, Musk has also activated Starlink in Iran amid widespread protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini who died in police custody. People in the country have reported internet outages and the Iranian police denied Amini was mistreated.

The satellite internet service is available in about 40 countries, but SpaceX has yet to sell Starlink in China. Chinese state media has reported that SpaceX does not have plans to apply for an operating license in China. Internet service in China is available only through state-owned providers, and access is strictly censored.

The Tesla CEO is heavily reliant on China - the largest electric-car market in the world. In 2018, Musk launched a factory in Shanghai. Since, the factory has become one of Tesla's main export hubs. Last year, half of Tesla's global deliveries came from China.

The billionaire has publicly praised China in the past and recently wrote an article for China's internet regulator.

"Chinese companies will be a force to be reckoned with in the cause of energy innovation," Musk reportedly wrote in the article.

FT said the billionaire appeared hesitant to comment on growing tensions between the US and China, but said he believes there will eventually be a conflict with the communist country over Taiwan.

"Apple will be in very deep trouble, that's for sure," Musk said, noting he believes the global economy will plummet by 30%. Though, the billionaire said Tesla's Shanghai factory will still be able to sell cars in China.

Last week, the billionaire also weighed in on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, suggesting the citizens of the occupied territories should vote on which country they'd rather live in. His suggestion was met with heavy criticism. Even Zelenskyy mocked Musk's attempt to solve a real-world crisis on Twitter.

"Which @elonmusk do you like more?" Zelenskyy asked, with a poll. "One who supports Ukraine. One who supports Russia."

Musk's comments on Ukraine were also met with criticism from China's top propagandist, Hu Xijin.

"Elon Musk has released his personality too much, and he believes too much in the US and West's 'freedom of speech.' He will be taught a lesson," Hu reportedly wrote.

Read FT's full interview with Musk on its website.


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