Taiwan’s premier on Tuesday said Elon Musk “doesn’t know much” about the self-ruled island after the billionaire suggested it should become part of China. The world’s richest man has sparked anger in Taiwan over an interview he gave to the Financial Times, which touched on Taiwan’s fraught relationship with its giant neighbor.
Taiwan lives under constant threat of invasion by Beijing, which claims democracy as part of its territory, to be taken one day.
“This is not a matter of if they will invade; it’s a matter of when they will invade,” Admiral Lee Hsi-min, who used to head Taiwan’s armed forces, told correspondent Lesley Stahl about China on “60 Minutes” on Sunday amid escalating tension between the democratic, self-governing island and China.
In the Financial Times interview published Friday, Musk said he believed Taiwan should strike a “reasonably palatable” agreement with Beijing to become China’s “special administrative zone”.
Beijing uses that model to run Macau and Hong Kong.
Beijing’s leaders have long suggested the same model for Taiwan, although it has always been a non-starter for most Taiwanese.
Premier Su Tseng-chang — Taiwan’s most senior politician after the president — became the highest-ranking official yet to address Musk’s comments, which he dismissed on Tuesday.
“Musk is a businessman,” Su told a parliamentary session. “He has a big car factory in Shanghai, and he wants to promote his electric vehicles… a businessman may say this today and say that tomorrow”.
“Musk only speaks for himself, but he really doesn’t know much about Taiwan, and he also doesn’t understand cross-strait relations,” Su added.
Polls have consistently shown that most of Taiwan’s people have no appetite to be ruled by China, which deepened after Beijing deployed a sweeping political crackdown in Hong Kong.
Musk is a notoriously outspoken business figure, especially on Twitter, where he frequently wades into social and geopolitical causes.
Multiple Chinese officials praised his comments on Taiwan, including Beijing’s ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang.
Last week Musk became embroiled in a social media spat with Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, over his ideas on ending Russia’s invasion.
Musk proposed a peace deal involving re-running under U.N. supervision annexation referendums in Moscow-occupied Ukrainian regions, acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula and giving Ukraine neutral status.
Kyiv’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, replied bluntly: “F*** off is my very diplomatic reply to you.”