What else can he say?
The Chinese government is afraid of the Tesla Model S and the rest of the US-based automaker's lineup. Following an internal review, Chinese officials determined a Tesla's constantly recording camera, which also tracks vehicle location and the times it's used, is a national security risk.
Government and military employees who own a Tesla are now banned from driving their cars to work out of concern the recorded data forms part of a US-sponsored intelligence-gathering operation. Even if it's not, China doesn't trust Tesla with such sensitive information. Tesla CEO Elon Musk flatly denied those spying fears over the weekend during a state-hosted virtual economic forum.
"There's a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information," he said. "If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down."
The often outspoken CEO will somehow have to win the trust (or the closest thing to it) of top Chinese officials, many of whom were probably in attendance, because of the country's necessity for success. China remains the world's largest automotive market and Tesla, like most automakers, depends on it to achieve lofty sales goals. Last year, it sold nearly 148,000 vehicles in China, representing a significant chunk of the 500,000 vehicles it delivered globally.
The electric vehicle company already has a Gigafactory in Shanghai churning out Model 3s and Model Ys. A sub-$25,000 city car specifically for China and its crowded and polluted cities is currently being discussed. Owning a new Tesla is a clear sign of economic success among Chinese consumers. Their culture places a high emphasis on monetary achievement.
Tesla must now continue to navigate through this extremely delicate subject matter despite reiterating its "privacy protection policy complies with Chinese laws and regulations." Those are merely empty words for China's government and military security apparatus so unless the carmaker proves otherwise, the ban is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.