Tesla‘s CEO Elon Musk has downplayed espionage concerns from China stating the electric car maker could be using its technology to spy on the Chinese government and would be ultimately shut down if this is found to being the truth.

China and the US have been a constant battle over privacy and intellectual theft for some times now which is part of what led to the downfall of the giant tech company Huawei in the US. The US constantly accuse the Chinese tech company of spying on Americans while the accusations might be reciprocated by the Chinese in return as Tesla is already being accused of doing the same.

Elon Musk speaking at the China Development Forum, hours after a screenshot of an order issued at a military accommodation complex banning Tesla vehicles went viral on Chinese social media.

The notice has it that due to the cameras and ultrasonic sensors used by Tesla cars could potentially expose the location of targets in China and so the cars would be banned from entering military facilities to prevent a security threat.

“If Tesla used cars to carry out espionage activities in China or anywhere, we will get shut down … There’s a strong incentive for us to be confidential,” Musk said at the virtual meeting.

A person familiar with the matter said the ban was issued a couple of weeks ago because Chinese leaders were “very concerned”, adding that Musk might visit China next month.

With this, Tesla did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Saturday but the company’s CEO further downplayed this citing the case of the short video sharing platform TikTok which faced a serious threat to the point of being banned during the Trump administration last year if it was not sold out to another company especially a US-based company however this attempt would be shelved after the election of a new president Joe Biden.

“Many people were concerned over TikTok but I think this was an unnecessary concern. We should learn lessons from this,” said Musk, who is a popular figure in China.

He called for mutual trust and said the best situation would be a future in which everyone trusted each other.

Tesla opened a factory in Shanghai in 2018. Photo: Reuters
Tesla currently make electric cars in China

He was taking part in a discussion panel with Chinese quantum physicist and head of Southern University of Science and Technology Xue Qikun.

Xue said there should be more scientific exchanges between China and the US but many of his students were unable to go to America because of visa restrictions.

Tesla, which opened a factory in Shanghai in 2018, has been touted as an example of China’s commitment to international investment and trade.

China was the world’s largest electric vehicle market in 2020 and accounted for 30 per cent of Tesla’s global sales, according to figures from the China Passenger Car Association.