The foreign minister of Taiwan has called out Elon Musk directly after the billionaire appeared to suggest the island was an “integral part of China” much like Hawaii is part of the United States.
Joseph Wu’s rebuke, in a post late Wednesday on Musk’s own Twitter/X network, followed Musk’s appearance at a tech summit in Los Angeles where he predicted that “one way or the other” the Chinese were determined to take over Taiwan.
It‘s the second time in a week that a foreign nation’s officials have attacked the world’s richest man—whose companies include SpaceX and Tesla.
He faced a torrent of criticism after the revelation that he had blocked access to his Starlink satellite network near occupied Crimea to restrict Ukrainian attacks. His critics say that action has cost Ukrainian lives as they try to reclaim their territory from Russia’s illegal invasion.
A senior Ukrainian official responded to the revelation by accusing Musk of “committing evil.”
President Vladimir Putin came out to defend Musk a few days later, describing him as an “outstanding person.”
Musk was quizzed on the Starlink controversy as he appeared remotely at the All-In Summit in LA on Tuesday, getting a round of applause from the tech bros after declaring: “The Ukrainian government is not in charge of U.S. people or companies. That’s not how it works.”
After that dig at Ukraine, Musk went on to give his opinion on China-Taiwan: another conflict where, it appears that he believes, might is right.
Asked about rising tensions between the West and China, and their effects in Silicon Valley, Musk pointed out that China had been pushing for reunification with Taiwan for more than half a century.
He went on: “From this standpoint, maybe it’s analogous to, like, Hawaii or something like that: an integral part of China that is arbitrarily not part of China, mainly because the U.S. Pacific Fleet has stopped any reunification effort by force.”
There is nothing arbitrary about Taiwan’s independence, however; the island was the only holdout against the Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War, which ended in the mainland being re-named the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The former Chinese government fled to Taiwan, which has remained independent ever since.
“Things have got to the point where China’s military strength is increasing, and ours is more or less static. And strategically, you can imagine, trying to defend Taiwan is not easy, because it’s very close to the coast of China,” he added.
“There will come a point, probably in the not-too-distant future, when China’s military strength in that region far exceeds U.S. military strength in that region. And if one is to take China’s policy literally, and probably one should, there will be some forceful… force will be used to incorporate Taiwan into China. This is what they’ve said: If there’s not a diplomatic solution, there will be a solution by force.”
Musk went on to predict a period of rising U.S tensions as China builds up its military power in the South China Sea, with “tit-for-tat reciprocal sanctions over the next few years.”
“Then we’ll see: Is there going to be a diplomatic solution to reunification or a non-diplomatic solution? But he [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] has made it clear that one way or the other there will be a solution, from his standpoint.”
Wu’s response came via the official X/Twitter account of the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which reposted a clip from Musk’s appearance with a fierce comment, signed by Wu, pointing out that X is banned in China—and that Taiwan is not part of the People’s Republic of China.