Last Tuesday Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted an ancient Chinese poem to Twitter and Weibo. Chinese netizens began simultaneously debating what the posts might mean as well as praising Musk for his knowing of and understanding of the text. Musk has become known for posting similarly cryptic messages to Twitter in the past. In This specific post Musk wrote “Humankind” followed by an abridged version of “The Seven Steps Verse” in its traditional Chinese. The poem in question is highly allegorical and describes the relationship of two brothers from a royal family during China’s warring Three Kingdoms period. This poem is notable for its being taught as part of the standard curriculum in China’s primary schools. The poem is meant to convey the importance of getting along. Discussions centering around the deeper meaning of this post trended on Weibo last Tuesday the initial post receiving 100 million views.
A popular interpretation states that the post was alluding to the rival dog-themed cryptocurrencies, doge coin and Shiba Inu. This because Musk is known for sending waves through the cryptocurrency sphere and he’d been posting about those two coins recently. This all despite the fact that cryptocurrency trading is band in China.
The state-run publication news agency Reference News put forward a different interpretation. They posited that the post might be alluding to a heated exchange Musk recently had with the United Nations Food Program’s executive director this past monday regarding donations.
Musk’s posting the Chinese poem represents a departure from what he typically posts about on Weibo. Musk’s 1.9 million followers on Weibo are instead accustomed to his praising the Chinese space program and China’s economic growth over the past three decades.
Musk has remained a popular figure in China despite worsening U.S-Chinese relations. This as well as regulatory criticisms of Musk’s company Tesla which operates a factory in Shanghai. Tesla did not jump to address the Chinese poem controversy when asked to comment.
This article interested me for two main reasons. For one, I think it’s interesting that figures like Elon Musk are so regularly posting cryptic tweets to be decoded by those who follow them. This trend is made more significant when it’s taken into account that most of the time these cryptic messages pertain to major economic movements in cryptocurrency and the stock market. Secondly, this article interest me because of its casually stating that Elon Musk got the attention of 1/14th of the entire Chinese population. This shows not just how powerful today’s elite class is but also how quickly cryptocurrency has come into the mainstream.
CNBC. “Elon Musk Goes Viral on Chinese Social Media with Ancient Poem Post.” CNBC, CNBC, 2 Nov. 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/02/elon-musk-goes-viral-on-chinese-social-media-with-ancient-poem-post.html.