Last week in an interview with Financial Times Elon Musk said that representatives of the Chinese government directly asked him not to open access to Starlink on the territory of China. Musk told the FT that, according to the media’s summary, “Beijing has made it clear that it disapproves of his recent rollout of Starlink […] in Ukraine” and “demanded assurances that he would not sell Starlink in China.”
It’s unclear whether Musk agreed to Beijing’s request, but Starlink Services Map shows no plans to roll out in China. Neighboring countries such as Taiwan, Mongolia, and Vietnam are listed as “pending regulatory approval”.
By offering Internet connectivity that bypasses traditional service providers, Starlink has become a popular idea for bypassing network censorship around the world. Most recently, Starlink enabled Internet access in Iran in response to widespread protests and related censorship. Internet censorship in China, however, is much more organized and persistent — and any attempt to circumvent it via Starlink is likely to face a backlash from the central government.
It’s a reminder of how vulnerable Elon Musk is to international pressure, even as he defends free speech in his public statements. As the FT points out, Tesla has a factory in Shanghai and the company reportedly sold more than 80,000 cars in China. As a result, Musk has received the support of the Chinese government and is even the author of a column for a magazine published by the country’s Internet censorship agency.
At the same time, Musk is closer than ever before to becoming the owner of Twitter. After months of a confusing game, Mask last week confirmed his willingness to buy the social network at an upfront price, telling a judge in his civil case with the company that he believes the deal will close by October 28. However, Twitter remains officially blocked in China.
We will remind you that Elon Musk allowed himself a very offensive proposal regarding Ukrainian-Russian relations.