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China Bans Tesla From Chengdu With Xi Set To Visit City

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 27, 2023
China bans Tesla Chengdu World University Games Xi Jinping
A file photo of Elon Musk and former Mayor of Shanghai Ying Yong during the Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in January of 2019. Reports say Teslas have been banned from Chengdu as the World University Games, which President Xi Jinping will attend the Opening Ceremony of, are set to commence July 27. (Image: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chinese government has banned Teslas from appearing in the streets of Chengdu, Sichuan Province ahead of the July 27 World University Games where President Xi Jinping is set to oversee the Opening Ceremonies.

Bloomberg reported the news on July 26 based on “people familiar with the matter” who were “asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.”

The specific reason for the ban is unclear, but Teslas have previously made headlines for being outlawed from Chinese military facilities and the Beidaihe district of Hebei Province where the Party holds high level conclaves based on “concerns about sensitive data being collected by cameras built into the vehicles.”

Tesla’s depreciation for the World University Games is notable as CEO Elon Musk visited the Mainland in May, his first trip since the Wuhan Pneumonia pandemic began around October of 2019.

Musk was formally received with much media attention by then-Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing and toured the company’s Gigafactory in Shanghai, a trip that included a photoshoot of Musk being chauffeured in a Tesla.

During the Beijing visit, Musk told Qin that he opposed “decoupling” from China and even wanted to increase operations in the country.

The meeting was one of Qin’s final appearances in public before he suddenly disappeared from the public eye, with the official reason being health issues.

Qin was replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi, who is now a member of the Politburo, on July 25.

Bloomberg said that representatives for Tesla failed to respond to requests for comment.

The outlet noted that at least one video on Douyin showed a Tesla driver being turned away from entering a venue in Chengdu, “In the clip, which is no longer available, a traffic officer explained that he was following an official order for the games.”

President Xi will attend the opening ceremony of the Games, along with dignitaries such as Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Bloomberg stated.

Widodo’s appearance at the games makes the ban on Teslas at the event more notable in that the company has long been reported to be on the verge of building a new battery factory in Indonesia.

In May of 2022, Inside EVs quoted Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia as stating, “God willing, Tesla will enter Indonesia this year. But I can’t announce the month yet. Let’s wait, because we haven’t signed an agreement yet. How much investment is still being kept secret, still waiting. But this is good stuff, big stuff.”

But the plan appears to have been unable to break Earth. 

In January, Al Jazeera reported that Tesla is still merely “nearing a preliminary deal” to get the factory built.

However, the article noted that Musk had replied to a Tweet on the report, which originated again with Bloomberg, “Please be cautious about writing articles citing ‘unnamed sources’, as they are frequently false.”

In January, Bloomberg reported that Tesla’s plans to expand the Shanghai Gigafactory, a project that would increase production to 2 million vehicles a year, were “in doubt.”

“Some central government officials expressed concern about a US company with connections to Elon Musk’s internet-from-space initiative Starlink having such a large presence in Asia’s biggest economy,” anonymous sources told Bloomberg.

The Shanghai Gigafactory has become fundamental to Tesla shareholders. According to the company’s Q2 2023 earnings deck, Shanghai produces more than 750,000 Model 3 and Model Y units.

The California Gigafactory, by comparison, produces only 550,000 Model 3 and Y, but adds 100,000 Model S and Model X, units that are not produced in China.

Website Teslarati reported in June that China’s National Development and Reform Commission is still blocking the expansion of the facility, citing concerns about oversupply adversely impacting the EV market.