TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A NATO intelligence official has informed Taiwan’s media that Elon Musk’s vast business interests in China were at least indirectly involved in People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military exercises around Taiwan in August.
A senior official within NATO was cited on Sunday (Oct. 23) by CNA as saying the alliance is “deeply concerned” about the relationship between Elon Musk and his trusted business partner, Oracle Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison, and the Chinese government. When U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, Beijing used her trip as a pretext to launch unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan.
This included launching ballistic missiles over Taiwan and was accompanied by cyberattacks on government agencies.
The NATO source pointed out the big data collected by Tencent Holding and Oracle’s cloud computing technology were used for the first time to create an “operational picture” that helped the Chinese military make strategic and tactical decisions. As a result, the PLA was able to adjust the schedule for naval exercises and integrate multiple combat domains such as cyber, land, sea, air, and space.
Tencent not only owns China’s largest social media platform, WeChat, but also participates in China’s “military-civilian integration” program, developing technologies such as artificial intelligence and information and communication technologies. The connection between Tencent and the PLA has continued to concern the governments of the U.S., India, and other countries.
In 2017, Oracle announced a strategic alliance with Tencent and that same year, Tencent purchased about a 5% stake in Tesla. In a tweet posted in March 2017, Musk wrote that he was “glad to have Tencent as an investor and advisor to Tesla.”
According to publicly available data, the China market accounts for 25% of Tesla’s total global revenue and is Tesla’s second-largest market. In 2021, Tesla’s revenue in China reached 60% of the level seen in the U.S., its largest market.
In August, Musk wrote an article for the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission with the title, “Believe in Technology Creates for Better Future.” According to the South China Morning Post, Musk is the first foreign author to be published by the commission, which oversees data security for China’s tech companies and coordinates with other agencies on censoring online content.
Tesla built a super factory in Shanghai in 2019 and received preferential treatment from the Chinese government. However, as China actively develops domestic electric vehicle-related industries and supply chains and expands overseas markets, Tesla faces increasingly fierce competition in China, and as a result, Beijing’s ability to exert pressure and operate has also increased.
In addition, there are concerns in Taiwan about the relationship between Musk, Ellison, and the PLA. Court documents related to Musk’s acquisition of Twitter show that Ellison was deeply involved in Musk’s decision to buy the social media platform. In 2018, Ellison took a US$1 billion stake in Tesla and became a board member.
A former senior executive of Oracle’s global marketing business estimates the Chinese market accounts for about 25% of Oracle’s global revenue. It is difficult to asses the exact sales figures for Oracle in China because, like many Western high-tech companies, it operates through local partners such as Digital China, Great Wall Computer Software And System Limited Company, Tencent, and China Electronics Corporation.
According to information obtained by CNA, Oracle actively promotes military-industry and military-data platforms, as well as cloud computing technology in China. Meanwhile, more than 70% of US Department of Defense organizations use Oracle databases and tools and 23 NATO countries use Oracle applications.
In another report acquired by the news agency, Oracle listed China’s defense and military partners, including: China South Industries Group, China Aerospace Science and Technology, China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Group Co., Ltd., China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, China’s three major branches of the military, and the People’s Armed Police.
In 2018, Western intelligence officials estimated that Oracle directly and indirectly obtained at least US$1 billion in cloud computing contracts from the Chinese military and the annual growth of related business could be as high as 40%. Considering the close relationship between Musk and Ellison and Chinese state-run companies, analysts believe their activities and rhetoric regarding Taiwan merit attention.