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Tech investor Draper sours on China

China is no longer a place to invest and has left “the free market” under President Xi Jinping, said U.S. venture capitalist Tim Draper, an early investor in Elon Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX.

Draper was also an early and prominent investor in Chinese search engine Baidu Inc, but he is now turning his attention to Taiwan, home to companies such as TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker.

“I used to be an investor in China,” he told Reuters late on Monday after arriving in Taipei.

“Then I got an early indication that China was going to leave the free market and I decided that that was not a place I wanted to invest,” Draper said, without elaborating.

He said he is looking for more opportunities in the space sector, visiting Taiwan’s space programme on Monday night in the tech hub of Hsinchu.

Draper, whose reality TV show “Meet the Drapers” just finished its fifth season, said Taiwan was a natural place to look for investments especially given the stumbling of China’s economy as Xi’s government enacts tough COVID-19 controls.

In late 2020, China began a crackdown on the once-freewheeling internet and tech “platform economy”, which includes e-commerce and social media, though the government began easing up this year to try and bolster growth.

China has repeatedly said it remains committed to welcoming foreign investors and opening up. Chinese policymakers pledged last week that growth was still a priority and they would press on with reforms. read more

Taiwan has a booming tech scene connected to its sprawling semiconductor supply chain. Billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc disclosed a more than $4.1 billion investment in TSMC stock on Monday.

Xi has been stepping up pressure on Taiwan to accept China’s sovereignty claims, and held war games near the island in August after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, underscoring Taiwan’s precarious international position.

“I’m just hoping that President Xi hasn’t lost his mind completely,” Draper said, referring to a potential Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Draper is also a big fan of “awesome” Elon Musk, even with the drama swirling around Musk’s takeover of Twitter and investor concerns that it is distracting him from Tesla Inc and SpaceX.

“This is a guy who can get a lot done,” Draper said. “So I think you’ve got a busy person who is getting a lot done and I’m sure he’s figured out what he’s capable of doing in each place. Good for him.” Reuters

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