He's certainly controversial in the West, but in China he's a superstar: Elon Musk, boss of US electric car maker Tesla, was hailed as 'Comrade Musk' by his fans during his visit to the country this week .
In the world's second largest economy, owning a Tesla car has become the social marker of the middle class in recent years.
And the economic success of the 51-year-old American billionaire also arouses admiration.
Zhu Qi, owner of a Tesla in the city of Changsha (center), does not hesitate to say it: she "reveres" Elon Musk for his "great personal charm and his constant excellence in his field" according to her.
"China is not very open yet...so for people like him to come and share some of their knowledge with us, I think that's something important, which our country and our leaders can do. be inspired," the 33-year-old university professor told AFP.
But "because of our exam-focused education system, I think it's difficult for China to produce someone like Musk, who has achieved global leader status based on his personal interests."
Arriving in Beijing on Tuesday before joining Shanghai on Wednesday evening, Elon Musk, also boss of the social network Twitter (inaccessible in the Asian country), was making his first visit to China in more than three years, taking advantage of the lifting of anti-Covid restrictions.
Chinese social media enthusiastically followed every minute of his stay, with posts on Weibo - similar to Twitter - racking up billions of views.
Elon Musk was welcomed almost like a foreign political leader, meeting several members of the government in Beijing, to whom he praised the "vitality" of Chinese development.
In Shanghai, he visited the Gigafactory assembly site, inaugurated by Tesla in 2019, according to images posted on Weibo by Grace Tao, the group's public relations officer in the country.
His jet finally took off from China on Thursday morning.
Photos of his welcome dinner on Tuesday - featuring 16 different dishes including seafood, New Zealand lamb and traditional Beijing soybean noodles - quickly went viral.
Many Internet users did not hide their admiration for this man whom they affectionately nicknamed "Brother horse", because of the first character of his name in Chinese.
“For Musk, there are no countries on this planet, only markets … to sell his wares”, underlined one of them. "It's exactly the kind of borderless capitalism he predicted."
Some took the opportunity to make fun of the United States, at a time when relations between the two countries are particularly tense.
Elon Musk "is apparently the only American welcome in China", noted a user on Weibo.
“Biden must be wondering why China refuses his invitations to meet with senior American officials, but rolls out the red carpet for Musk,” laughed another.
A meme circulating on the platform this week showed a statesman-looking "Comrade Musk" standing behind a podium flanked by Chinese flags, while costumed officials cheered in the background.
But not everyone in China succumbed to the charm of Elon Musk.
Thus, some have noted that the photos of his visit to the Shanghai factory, where he poses surrounded by hundreds of employees, were posted at... half past midnight.
In recent years, more and more tech workers have rightly criticized the long hours and high level of stress they are subjected to.
"It's a little outdated to force so many people to stay in the middle of the night just to take pictures," said a user.
"You're all working overtime tonight, huh?" another questioned.
01/06/2023 09:29:52 - Beijing (AFP) - © 2023 AFP