Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 28 April – Sunday 5 May:

On Sunday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrived on an unannounced visit to Beijing where he met with senior officials to discuss the rollout of full self-driving software and permission to transfer data overseas. Chinese state media reported that he held talks with the country’s premier, Li Qiang, during which Li told Musk that Tesla’s development in China could be seen as a successful example of US-China economic and trade cooperation. The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV did not say whether the two had discussed FSD or data. Tesla rolled out full self-driving, or FSD, the most autonomous version of its Autopilot software, four years ago but has yet to make it available in China, its second-largest market, despite customers urging it to do so. Musk said in response to a query on X this month that Tesla may make FSD available to customers in China “very soon”. Rival Chinese automakers such as Xpeng have been seeking to gain an advantage over Tesla by rolling out similar software. Musk reportedly hopes to obtain approval to transfer data collected in the country abroad to train algorithms for its autonomous driving technologies. Since 2021 Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai and has not transferred any back to the US, as required by Chinese regulators. Musk also met Ren Hongbin, a government official who heads the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the organiser of the Beijing auto show, state media reported. “It is good to see electric vehicles making progress in China. All cars will be electric in the future,” Musk said in a video posted on social media by a user affiliated with state media. Musk appeared to have made progress on his goals during the two-day trip, which ended on Monday. On Sunday, the China Association of Auto Manufacturers said in a statement that Tesla’s Model 3 and Y vehicles had passed China’s data security requirements. Tesla has also reportedly reached a deal with Chinese tech giant Baidu to form a partnership on mapping and navigation functions ahead of plans to deploy the FSD system. Tesla’s stock gained more than 6% on Wall Street in pre-market trading, while Baidu’s shares closed up 2.4% on Monday in Hong Kong. Tesla shares have fallen 32% so far this year. Premier Li was full of praise for Tesla, which vies with China’s BYD for the title of the world’s top seller of battery electric cars. “The economies of China and the United States are deeply integrated,” he said, according to an official readout of the meeting with the Tesla CEO. “You have me, and I have you. Both sides can benefit from each other’s development.” Musk praised Tesla’s Gigafactory in Shanghai, which Li backed during his tenure as the city’s party secretary, calling it the company’s “best-performing” factory. “Tesla is willing to further deepen cooperation with China and achieve more win-win results,” Musk told Li. Also on Sunday, Musk met with Ren Hongbin, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, a government-backed trade body that invited him to Beijing on this trip.

On Monday, Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, resigned in a fresh setback for his Scottish National Party (SNP). The party has been in crisis since a funding scandal last year involving the former leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon. Last week Yousaf ended a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Green Party, which led to the Greens initiating no-confidence motions. Ahead of these no-confidence votes, Yousaf resigned. “I have concluded that repairing our relationships across the political divide can only be done with someone else at the helm,” Mr. Yousaf said in a short and at times emotional statement. He admitted that he had “clearly underestimated the level of hurt and upset” that his abrupt decision to end the coalition had caused, and said he would continue as first minister — the head of the Scottish government — until his successor was elected. Yousaf in 2020 claimed that Scotland should be ashamed of the lack of diversity in the political establishment. “More than 300 MSPs have come to and gone from this Parliament—our nation’s Parliament. In 20 years, there has not been a single black member of the Scottish Parliament, to our shame; there has not been a single woman MSP of colour, to our shame; and the only four ethnic minority MSPs have all been Scots Asian males,” he said in 2020. It is rather strange – and ungrateful – for the son of Pakistani immigrants to be so resentful of the country that permitted them to enter and remain. Stranger still for Scottish voters to have tolerated such individuals. 

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at the World Economic Forum meeting in Saudi Arabia, said that “the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire” is Hamas, ahead of what are seen as last-chance talks to salvage a diplomatic solution before a threatened Israeli ground invasion in Rafah. “Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel. They have to decide and they have to decide quickly … I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision and we can have a fundamental change in the dynamic.” The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, told the same gathering that Hamas should accept the deal for a “sustained 40 days’ ceasefire”.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the Israeli army will launch a ground offensive in Gaza’s Rafah “with or without” a truce with Hamas. Hamas was still studying a proposed deal involving a 40-day ceasefire in exchange for the release of scores of hostages held by the Palestinian militant group since its October 7 attack on Israel. On Tuesday, Antony Blinken headed to Jordan where he discussed ways to boost aid deliveries into Gaza after his talks with Gulf Arab leaders in Riyadh. 

On Wednesday, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen announced the country is on alert in the expectation of the Chinese military carrying out military exercises after the inauguration of President-elect – and current vice president – Lai Ching-te later this month. Lai will be inaugurated on May 20. China is expected to use newer tactics – which have already been seen – such as carrying out “joint combat readiness patrols” at night, something described as a new development. “In addition, inflight refuelling aircraft are being used during the joint combat readiness patrols” to extend the time combat aircraft can remain in the air, Tsai said. Landing ships and minesweepers have also been observed joining these patrols, he added. “These are new patterns for this year.” Lai, like current President Tsai Ing-wen, rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims; both say only the island’s people can decide their future. China, which views self-governed Taiwan as its territory, has a strong dislike of Lai, believing him to be a dangerous separatist. China’s government has rejected his repeated offers of talks, including one made last week. China holds regular military drills from June to November. 

On Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a message posted on the social media platform X that actions including disinformation, sabotage, acts of violence and cyber and electronic interference “will not deter us from supporting Ukraine.” Stoltenberg said this in response to fears raised by NATO countries about a Russian campaign of so-called “hybrid activities” on alliance soil. “NATO Allies are deeply concerned about recent malign activities on Allied territory, including those resulting in the investigation and charging of multiple individuals in connection with hostile state activity affecting Czechia, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the United Kingdom,” the North Atlantic Council, the principal political decision-making body within NATO, said. “These incidents are part of an intensifying campaign of activities which Russia continues to carry out across the Euro-Atlantic area, including on Alliance territory and through proxies,” the statement read. 

On Saturday, in a nearly 90-minute speech at a donor retreat in Palm Beach, Donald Trump claimed the Biden Administration is “running a Gestapo administration, and it’s the only thing they have, and it’s the only way they’re going to win.” The Gestapo was the secret police force of the Third Reich. This was in reference to the various lawsuits against him. “But it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “What they’ve done is weaponize the government to go after political opponents.”

On Sunday, Hamas said the latest round of Gaza cease-fire talks ended in Cairo after “in-depth and serious discussions,” reiterating key demands that Israel again rejected. Egyptian state media reported that the Hamas delegation went for discussions in Qatar, where the group has a political office, and will return to Cairo for further negotiations on Tuesday. The Israeli side closed the main crossing point into Gaza after Hamas attacked it and vowed to resist international pressure to halt the war. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Hamas wasn’t serious about a deal and warned of “a powerful operation in the very near future in Rafah and other places across all of Gaza.” It seems Israel’s threats of a Rafah operation have yielded little in the way of concessions from Hamas. The same day Israel ordered the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera news network to close, accusing it of broadcasting anti-Israel incitement. The ban did not appear to affect the channel’s operations in Gaza or the West Bank.

On Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in France. This is his first visit to Europe in five years. After France, Xi will travel to Serbia – timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo war in 1999 – and Hungary. That mistaken strike on May 7, 1999, for which the White House apologized, killed three Chinese journalists and ignited furious protests around the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. These three nations have reportedly been specifically chosen because of their skepticism of the American-led world order and their visions for the future of Europe. China wants to seize any opportunities it can to loosen Europe’s bonds with the United States. Xi, accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, was welcomed under umbrellas at Paris Orly airport by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. Xi is to hold a day of talks in Paris on Monday – also including EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen – followed by a state banquet hosted by Macron at the Elysee. Tuesday will see Macron take Xi to the Pyrenees mountains to an area he used to visit as a boy for a day of less public and more intimate talks. In an op-end for Le Figaro daily, Xi said that he wanted to work with the international community to find ways to solve the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while emphasising that China was “neither a party nor a participant” in the conflict. “We hope that peace and stability will return quickly to Europe, and intend to work with France and the entire international community to find good paths to resolve the crisis,” he wrote.

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