Tesla Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, said the Chinese government has asked him to withhold Starlink’s access within China.
Musk disclosed this in an interview with Financial Times saying, “Beijing has made clear its disapproval” of his recent rollout of Starlink and “sought assurances he would not sell Starlink in China.”
In its roll-out plan, Starlink’s service map shows no plan to deploy in China. Adjacent countries like Taiwan, Mongolia, and Vietnam are listed as “pending regulatory approval.”
Offering a connection to the internet that sidesteps conventional service providers, Starlink has been a popular idea for circumventing network-based censorship around the world.
Most recently, Starlink enabled access in Iran in response to widespread protests and accompanying censorship. Internet censorship in China, however, is far more organized and persistent — and any ongoing attempt to evade it through Starlink would likely incur retaliation from the central government.
The anecdote is a reminder of how exposed Musk is to international pressures, even as he champions free speech principles in his public statements.
As FT points out, Tesla maintains a factory in Shanghai, and the company has reportedly sold more than 80,000 cars in China.
Musk has remained broadly aligned with the Chinese government as a result, even authoring a column for a magazine run by the country’s internet censorship agency.