By Laura He, CNN
Hong Kong (CNN) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has wrapped up his first trip to China in three years, after meeting a string of government officials and thanking workers at the company’s mega factory in Shanghai.
Musk’s private jet took off from Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport on Thursday, capping a whirlwind 48-hour trip by the billionaire, according to Variflight, a Chinese flight data app.
It was the first time Musk has visited the country since January 2020, when a video of him dancing onstage at Tesla’s Shanghai factory went viral.
Before leaving, Musk met Chen Jining, the Communist Party chief of Shanghai, according to a statement by the city government.
Chen encouraged Tesla (TSLA) to boost its investment and operations in Shanghai and “bring more new products, new technologies and new services” to the city.
Musk praised the success of Tesla’s Shanghai facility — which opened in 2019 — and said he was hoping to work more with the city in various areas, the statement said. He visited the Gigafactory late Wednesday, after arriving from Beijing. (Variflight showed his jet arrived in Shanghai at 9:26 pm on Wednesday.)
“Thank you for being here late at night,” he said in a speech in front of a massive crowd of workers, according to a video released on social media by Tesla China.
“I would very much like to congratulate you on the amazing work that you have done,” Musk said. “It’s been incredibly impressive how you have been able to overcome so many difficulties and so many challenges.”
“I just want to let you know, it warms my heart,” Musk said, making a fist pump after tapping his chest. His words were met with applause and cheers.
Musk then made a “heart” sign with his hands, saying: “I tell people throughout the world, the cars we produce here are not just the most efficient production, but also the highest quality.”
The Shanghai Gigafactory is Tesla’s biggest car manufacturing plant outside the United States. In 2022, the company delivered 1.31 million vehicles globally, more than half of which were from Shanghai, according to its financial results.
In May 2022, Musk touted the work ethic of Chinese employees, praising them burning “the 3 a.m. oil” in an interview with the Financial Times. At the time, Shanghai was in the midst of a two-month Covid lockdown.
Just six months later, in November, the Shanghai factory set a fresh monthly delivery record of more than 100,000 vehicles. All this was achieved after Covid restrictions caused the plant to temporarily suspend production.
Musk arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, starting his trip by meeting the country’s foreign minister Qin Gang, according to a statement by the ministry.
He then met with the country’s tech and commerce ministers separately, discussing matters related to electric vehicles, connected cars, US-China relations and Tesla’s development in China, according to government releases.
“Congratulations to Giga Shanghai & Tesla China SDS teams for their excellent work overcoming many obstacles over many years!! ” Musk said separately on his Twitter and Weibo accounts on Friday.
He also reportedly met with Zeng Yuqun, chairman and founder of CATL, a Chinese EV battery manufacturer and a Tesla supplier, according to an image published by the Paper.cn and widely circulated on social media. Tesla didn’t immediately reply to a CNN request for comment.
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