Elon Musk Is Going to China for the World AI Conference—And a Surprise Project

Elon Musk

Elon Musk visited Beijing and Shanghai in 2018 and spoke highly of the China’s “energy and vigor.” Xinhua/ via Getty Images

Elon Musk and the Chinese government have grown to be best friends over the past year. While his ambitious business proposals often hit regulatory walls in the U.S., China has been welcoming them with nothing but open arms. Seven months ago, the Tesla CEO made a trip to China for the groundbreaking ceremony of Tesla’s first overseas plant, the 9.3 million-square-foot Gigafactory 3, in Shanghai. And in just a few weeks, he will visit the country again—this time to be the face of its burgeoning artificial intelligence scene.

Confirmed to speak at the second annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference taking place in Shanghai from August 29 to August 31, Musk will join the stage with AI academics, engineers and entrepreneurs, including ByteDance’s (parent company of TikTok) AI chief, Wang Changhu; Huawei’s head of wireless network products, Deng Taihua; and Turing Award-winning computer scientist Raj Reddy.

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Musk’s presentation will likely focus on various AI initiatives that are carried out at his companies, including Tesla’s self-driving project.

But more importantly, he will be there to launch a local branch of his underground hyperloop startup, the Boring Company, Musk revealed in a Twitter conversation on Saturday.

Musk didn’t share further details, but it won’t be a surprise if he already has negotiation underway with Chinese regulators about digging a tunnel in one of China’s major cities.

Musk has praised Beijing’s progressive stance in facilitating innovative infrastructure projects for years. Every time his company ran into a regulatory stall in the U.S., he brought up China as a contrast.

“China’s progress in advanced infrastructure is more than 100 times faster than the U.S.,” he tweeted in February 2018 citing a news article about Chinese workers building a railway station in nine hours.

A few months later, Musk made a three-day trip to China, during which he met with China’s Vice President Wang Qishan in Beijing and sealed Tesla’s Gigafactory deal in Shanghai. “The world has never seen human energy and vigor at such scale,” he said of his visit afterwards.

Meanwhile, U.S. regulators have been a pain in the neck for Musk’s infrastructure pitches. When launching the Boring Company in 2016, his goal was to dig long-distance tunnels between major cities that could shorten traditional travel time by hours. Early plans included a public transit system in Chicago and a tunnel going from New York City to Washington, D.C.

But none of those plans have materialized yet. Instead, over its three years of existence, the Boring Company has only built two small projects: a test tunnel near its headquarters in Hawthorne, California and a recently signed mile-long project in Las Vegas.

Last week, the Boring Company raised its first outside funding, a $120 million cash investment from a consortium of venture capitalists. The company is now valued at $920 million.

Elon Musk Is Going to China for the World AI Conference—And a Surprise Project