Elon Musk in new Bridge of Spies as Teslas banned in escalating US China spy row

Elon Musk has found himself in the middle of a US-China spy row reminiscent of Tom Hanks's character in a Bridge of Spies.

The tech billionaire was dragged into the spat after the superpowers accused each other of cyberattacks and two Canadians and a Huawei executive were put trial for espionage.

The Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in December 2018, days after an executive from the Chinese telecoms company Huawei was detained in Vancouver at the request of officials in the US.

Meanwhile the Steven Spielberg-directed 2015 Cold War historical drama saw Hanks play lawyer turned spy swap negotiator James Donovan.

Now Musk, who recently changed his job title to the Technoking of Tesla, has appeared before Beijing officials over the weekend to hit back at claims his electric cars were spying on sensitive military areas in China.

The eccentric South African, 49, told a virtual business conference organised by the Chinese government that his cars would not be used by the US, the Times reports.

Musk, who is highly respected in the communist state, told the China Development Forum: "There's a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information.

"If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down."

He added that it did not make sense, from a business perspective, for a car company to engage in espionage, saying: "Whether it's Chinese or US, the negative effects if a commercial company did engage in spying \u0097 the negative effects for that company would be extremely bad."

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Referring to the former US President Trump's threats to exclude the Chinese-owned video-sharing app Tik- Tok until he was blocked by US courts, Mr Musk said: "Many people were concerned over TikTok but I think this was an unnecessary concern.

"We should learn lessons from this."

Tesla reportedly sold 147,000 electric vehicles in China, 30 per cent of its global sales.

Musk is also celebrated in the country enjoying particularly warm relations with communist authorities in Shanghai where he manufactures his vehicles.

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But Beijing is nevertheless said to have banned Teslas from sensitive military locations for fear that their cameras could be used for espionage.

Staff at military bases or in sensitive businesses were barred from driving to work in a Tesla in the government's latest restrictions on foreign technology.

The bans emerged after the Canadian business were put on trial for espionage and top Chinese and US diplomats accused each other of cyberattacks at a press conference in Alaska.

Spavor was brought before a court in Liaoning province in northeast China for a closed-door hearing on Friday. Kovrig is due before a court on Monday.

Other countries have meanwhile restricted use of communications equipment made by Chinese telecomms giant Huawei in their networks for fear of being spied upon.

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