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‘I’m kind of pro-China’: Elon Musk sees role for China in writing AI rules

Twitter owner Elon Musk said Wednesday he has an optimistic outlook on China’s future and believes the communist country is ready to help write international rules for artificial intelligence.

Mr. Musk said China has good intentions for emerging technology during an audio interview with U.S. lawmakers on Twitter Spaces.

“I’m kind of pro-China,” Mr. Musk said. “And I know this makes it sound like ‘Well, do you have all these vested interests in China?’ I’m like, I have some vested interests in China but honestly, I think China is underrated and I think the people of China are really awesome and there’s a lot of positive energy there.”

Mr. Musk’s support of the communist country was met with skepticism by Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin Republican, who told Mr. Musk he viewed China as being on “team genocidal communism” and not “team humanity.”

Mr. Gallagher leads the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party working to counter the country’s global aggression alongside Rep. Ro Khanna, the committee’s top-ranking Democrat who represents Silicon Valley.

The bipartisan duo interviewed Mr. Musk about his impressions of China and his outlook for AI.

Mr. Khanna pressed Mr. Musk to explain whether he believed China would participate in efforts to collaboratively regulate AI.

“My understanding from the conversations that I had in China was that China is definitely interested in working in a cooperative international framework regarding AI regulation,” Mr. Musk said.

The billionaire entrepreneur in charge of Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX recently traveled to Beijing, meeting with China’s foreign minister on May 30. After the communist government eased restrictions on foreign businesses, Tesla opened the first totally foreign-owned auto factory in China in 2019.

Mr. Musk’s praise for China and openness to its participation in the AI industry arrives as he is launching a new AI project. Mr. Musk promoted the AI startup on Twitter on Wednesday, saying the “xAI” team would work to “understand reality.”

The tech mogul whose social media, automotive, and rocket companies have benefited from AI tools told Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Khanna that the U.S. needs to worry about an AI doomsday scenario.

“It’s actually important for us to worry about a Terminator future in order to avoid a Terminator future,” Mr. Musk told the lawmakers.

Mr. Musk cast China as a nation willing to help avoid widespread devastation.

The entrepreneur’s rosy outlook on China comes on the heels of the global COVID-19 pandemic that the U.S. intelligence community assessed emerged and spread from an exposure in November 2019 that emanated from Wuhan, China.

Mr. Gallagher said he was skeptical that the Chinese Communist Party would be a constructive partner for AI given its recent past.

“In what other international framework have they been a constructive actor?” Mr. Gallagher said. “For a decade, our experts made the case for sharing cutting-edge, gain-of-function research with China and that turned out to be a total, pandemic-level disaster.”

The Wisconsin Republican said he anticipated the Chinese government would look in the near term to use AI to implement “total techno totalitarian control.”

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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