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David Wertime

Chinese Netizens Can't Believe Elon Musk Gets To Do That

3…2…1…History. On Friday at 9:56 a.m., the New York times reports, a capsule launched by a private company called SpaceX docked at the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first private company ever to accomplish this feat.  

Netizens comment on a subtitled interview with Elon Musk on The Daily Show

Netizens were absolutely “lost in admiration” for the accomplishments of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who they called an “idol” and a “god.” Some theorized that the “real-life Iron Man” Musk had time-traveled here from the future, or was an alien plotting a way back to his home planet.  

It didn’t hurt that some found him quite handsome. @科技麻辣烫 asked, “Is he married??? Is his daughter married??? Is his son married???” 

In reflecting on Elon Musk’s stunning accomplishments, many netizens pointed to American culture and governance as the fertile soil in which genius can thrive. It seemed to matter little that Musk grew up in South Africa; many netizens lauded the capacity for dreaming and risk-taking in his adopted home, the U.S.

@Aute-XL wrote, “The biggest difference between the U.S. and China is this: In China those who dream are seen as crazy, or as failures, or otherwise they are [forced to] assimilate. But America is a country run by the crazy ones, and they are encouraged to be crazy.” @冉雄飞 wrote in admiration, “Crazy Americans, with the courage and the [capacity for] great action to move beyond what we imagine!” 

@勤-康明 took it a step further. Witnessing this accomplishment, he tweeted, “I deeply believe the U.S. will become a great power once again. So many entrepreneurs with creativity and the ability to execute. In a few years, the framework of new and emerging fields will once again be created and guided by the U.S., just like the rise and development of the Internet.” Added @随风-ZHANG, “This is the great power of private enterprise.”

SpaceX fired up this test engine, and netizens' imaginations. Image courtesy of SpaceX

China, by contrast, did not provide the right “social environment” in netizen eyes. @_火_中_莲_ complained, “In China, the most he’d ever accomplishing is kicking people off their land, being a dictator, or taking bribes for years before he was kicked out of office and made into a scapegoat.” Others emphasized that Musk was a “genuine-article tycoon [高帅富],” implying that some Chinese who’d achieved that status had employed perhaps less noble means. 

A small number were less impressed. @左道术士 wrote, “An idol? In fact, the U.S. government could not support NASA, so it gave its technical personnel to a private company. Basically, this company bought a part of NASA…[he] provided the money, NASA provided the technology, and the U.S. government rented out the launching pad.”  

But @左道术士 was outnumbered by the breathless majority. Mr. Musk, if you come to China, you will surely find many supporters. We’ll assume you can take care of your own transportation. 

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
  • ehfeng

    So true. I feel like Musk should be much more of a superstar than he is in America.

  • ehfeng

    So true. I feel like Musk should be much more of a superstar than he is in America.