Elon Musk, the owner of X/Twitter, was called out on his platform by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs after calling the island nation an "integral part of China" and insisting that he understands "China well."
Mr Musk made the comments on the "All In" podcast while answering a question about China and the future of his involvement with the nation.
During the interview, Mr Musk said "I think I understand China well," and notes that he's been there several times and has met with high-ranking officials.
He then turns his attention to Taiwan, and compares its relationship to China to Hawaii's relationship to the US, insisting it is "an integral part of China that is arbitrarily not part of China”.
That comparison is flawed in two major ways: first, Hawaii is not a contested region, but is unquestionably a US state with all the same powers and freedoms granted any other US state; second, Taiwan's assertion that it is its own state is not arbitrary, but instead a position it has held for decades.
Mr Musk said he expected that China's military presence would out-power the US's military presence in the region soon, and said it was only a matter of time before Beijing used its martial power to bring Taiwan back under its rule.
The Tesla CEO said that the US's involvement is likely a major reason why such a takeover has not happened already.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs took offence to Mr Musk's comments and called him out on his social media platform.
"Hope @ElonMusk can also ask the #CCP to open @X to its people," the account wrote, referring to the fact that X/Twitter is officially blocked in the nation by the Chinese government.
Hope @elonmusk can also ask the #CCP to open @X to its people. Perhaps he thinks banning it is a good policy, like turning off @Starlink to thwart #Ukraine’s counterstrike against #Russia. Listen up, #Taiwan is not part of the #PRC & certainly not for sale! JW https://t.co/HEhyTYYXFp
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) September 13, 2023
The ministry needled Mr Musk further, dropping a reference to his reported decision to suspend his Starlink satellite service to Ukraine during a pivotal moment in Russia's invasion of the nation.
"Perhaps he thinks banning it is a good policy, like turning off @Starlink to thwart #Ukraine's counterstrike against #Russia," the ministry wrote. "Listen up, #Taiwan is not part of the #PRC & certainly not for sale!"
This isn't the first time Mr Musk has irked Taiwan with his comments; last October he suggested to the Financial Times that China "figure out a special administrative zone for Taiwan that is reasonably palatable," but noted it "probably won't make everyone happy”.
Special administrative zones are the arrangements China uses to rule Hong Kong and Macau.
Qin Gang, China's ambassador to the US, thanked Mr Musk for his idea, but Taiwanese officials were less receptive.
"Taiwan sells many products, but our freedom and democracy are not for sale," Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan's representative to the US, said, according to CNN.