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Elon Musk goes viral on Chinese social media with ancient poem post

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By Eduardo Baptista

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The posting of an ancient Chinese poem by Tesla CEO Elon Musk on social media on Tuesday has driven Chinese internet users to engage in a frenzied debate game over his meaning, with many also praising him for his knowledge of the text.

Musk, who is known for his cryptic Twitter posts, wrote in English “Humankind” before posting an abbreviated version of the ‘Seven Steps Verse’ in Chinese on his official Twitter and Weibo accounts.

The highly allegorical poem describes the relationship between two brothers from a royal family during China’s warring Three Kingdoms period that is taught in all of China’s primary schools about the importance of getting along.

Discussions about how to interpret Musk’s posts trended heavily on Weibo on Tuesday, receiving over 100 million views. Twitter is blocked in mainland China.

Popular interpretations suggested Musk was alluding to two rivalling dog-themed cryptocurrencies, shiba inu and dogecoin, which he had been tweeting about this week. His tweets are known for moving cryptocurrency markets although cryptocurrency trading is banned within China’s borders.

Reference News, a publication under state-run Xinhua news agency, said Musk’s post could be a nod to a heated exchange he had with the United Nations World Food Programme’s executive director on Monday about donations.

Musk’s posting of the Chinese poem on Weibo marked a departure from his typical messages on the platform, where he has 1.9 million followers and frequently praises China for its space programme and its economic growth over the past three decades.

Musk, who is also behind rocket maker SpaceX, has remained a popular figure in China even amid deteriorating U.S.-China relations and regulatory criticism of Tesla, which operates a factory in Shanghai. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Chinese poem.

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Additional reporting by Yilei Sun; Editing by Brenda Goh and Lincoln Feast.)

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