The Very Odd Reason Teslas Are Feared In China

By Joseph Farago | 2 hours ago

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Tesla cars have dominated the electric vehicle market for quite some time. With exceptional models that give gasoline-powered cars a run for their money, they are the most coveted EVs available. But China, mainly, isn’t satisfied with Telsa’s electric-vehicle reign. Specific areas in the country are beginning to ban the use of Tesla cars, including small seaside resort towns. Though Elon Musk‘s electric vehicles have come under fire for certain autopilot manufacturing problems, that’s not what China is concerned about.

Chinese officials are increasingly more suspicious about spyware and its connection to Tesla vehicles. A report from authorities in the country stated their mistrust of Tesla EVs, even though Musk has repeatedly assured China that spying is not a part of their company’s agenda. Still, certain towns and cities and their local authorities are banning the use of Tesla vehicles on the roads. Even with various meetings, there’s not much Musk can do to change the anxiousness of Chinese officials and their perception of Tesla cars.

Starting this July, Tesla vehicles will not be allowed in Beidaihe, a beach resort close to Beijing. The mandate would go for at least two months, but it’s unclear if it would be extended afterward. The community wants to uphold privacy and seclusion above all, since the town is a popular destination for Chinese officials and politicians. Since the country believes that Tesla includes spyware in their vehicles, towns that experience the highest amount of socialite traffic are currently expressing the utmost concern. Beidaihe also hosts a well-known annual gathering for the country’s politicians, adding another layer to the surveillance anxiety.

The city of Chengdu also enacted similar policies for Tesla drivers at the beginning of June. President Xi Jinping visited the city early in the month, which galvanized officials into action. Tesla vehicles were barred from using roads that the president would take. As long as he was in southwest China, these roads were heavily policed to ensure that Tesla vehicles were not permitted.

The Chinese government’s apprehension about Tesla cars is due to certain vehicles’ onboard cameras. Anxiety surrounding these cameras began last year when the government refused to let Tesla vehicles inside office compounds in Beijing. Since these compounds were utilized for powerful officials’ business meetings, the government took extra precautions to ensure no one was spying. 2021 was also the year that China banned Tesla vehicles from entering military complexes in the country. The government believed that Musk’s EVs could extract private information from the military, putting an immediate prohibition on Teslas inside the complexes.

Elon Musk has reportedly met with Chinese officials over the years about their concerns. Even though Teslas capture video and data through its onboard cameras, that information stays within the Chinese border and never gets sent back to the American headquarters. Musk has been attempting to reason with Chinese officials calmly and persuasively since his company relies on the country for a significant portion of his revenue.

Last year, China made up a fourth of all Tesla sales worldwide. It also houses one of the company’s most extensive automotive manufacturing facilities, making China a key player in Musk’s financial success.