Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said he hopes American carmaker Tesla can help drive the country’s continued opening up, and even offered its controversial chief executive Elon Musk Chinese permanent residency, according to the government’s website.
The pair met on Wednesday at Zhongnanhai – the former imperial garden in Beijing that is now home to the headquarters of the Communist Party and the government – two days after Tesla broke ground at its Gigafactory 3 project in Shanghai, its first production base outside the United States.
“I love China and want to come here more often,” Musk was quoted as saying in a report on Gov.cn.
“If you do, we can issue you a Chinese green card,” the premier replied.
Li congratulated Musk on the start of construction at the multibillion-dollar facility, which came just three months after America’s bestselling electric carmaker secured the land at an industrial zone in Lingang.
Once completed it will be the first car plant in China to be wholly owned by a foreign company, since Beijing relaxed its restrictions on compulsory joint venture partnerships in some sectors last year.
“We hope you can get a firm foothold and expand the market,” Li said, adding that Tesla could be a “participant in China’s opening up and a promoter of stable China-US relations”.
Tesla to produce cheaper versions of Model 3 electric cars in Shanghai
Musk said he was impressed by the speed and efficiency of China’s development, and that it was hard to imagine that a car factory could be completed and opened in such a short time.
He said he would strive to make the new Shanghai factory one of the most advanced in the world while creating products to suit the needs of the Chinese market.
On Monday he said production of the Tesla Model 3 was expected to start before the end of the year.
Li said China would continue to be a hotspot for foreign investment and that he welcomed greater cooperation with companies from around the world.
Musk’s high-level meeting was not his first in China. In July, he met Vice-President Wang Qishan at Zhongnanhai and said on Twitter at the time that they discussed “history, philosophy and luck”.
His meeting with Li coincided with the end of the latest round of trade talks between Chinese and US officials in Beijing.
The discussions ended on a positive note and set the scene for top-level talks between Wang and US President Donald Trump later this month on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.