Mike Bloomberg’s history of involvement with China has been only in furtherance of his own business interests rather than out of concern for the American public or its values.
FPI / February 25, 2020
By Lee Cohen
Billionaire and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg has gone to alarming lengths over the years to avoid provoking China’s autocratic government in the interest of preserving Chinese interests in his global corporation.
His company has deployed gag orders, promoted Chinese government bonds, and even defended Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping in the media. But with growing reports of China’s mishandling of the coronavirus allowing the virus to spread, will Bloomberg continue his allegiance?
Every day brings more evidence that China’s delays, denial, and mishandling of the coronavirus have facilitated the deadly virus’ spread, not only across China, but, by extension, throughout the world. To make matters worse, Chinese doctors who attempted to alert the public to the dangers of the virus were suppressed by the government and the media in an unconscionable cover-up.
With 2,400 dead in China, and nearly 77,000 infected, acknowledging the gravity of the situation in a news conference on Sunday, Xi added brazenly: “The effectiveness of the prevention and control work has once again demonstrated the significant advantages of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.”
For his part, candidate Bloomberg immediately rushed to Twitter to warn the public not to judge: “How we manage this crisis must be based on facts and science — not fear and bigotry against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
But Bloomberg’s history of involvement with China has been only in furtherance of his own business interests rather than out of concern for the American public or its values.
Journalist Leta Hong Fincher revealed last week “the lengths that the Bloomberg machine will go to in order to avoid offending Beijing. Bloomberg’s company, Bloomberg LP, is so dependent on the vast China market for its business that its lawyers threatened to devastate my family financially if I didn’t sign an NDA silencing me about how Bloomberg News killed a story critical of Chinese Communist Party leaders.”
Hong’s family received death threats in Beijing after her husband, then a Bloomberg reporter, wrote an expose of the rapid accumulation of wealth of Xi’s relatives. Instead of showing concern for their employee and his family, Bloomberg Corporation wanted to prevent them from revealing the threats in order to not provoke Chinese officials. The company then fired her husband after changing course and refusing to publish another investigative piece it initially had approved, critical of Xi’s relatives. Bloomberg editor-in-chief Matt Winkler explained, “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China.”
In 2014, when asked about editorial policies vis-a-vis China, Bloomberg himself responded, “In China, they have rules about what you can publish. We follow those rules. If you don’t follow the rules, you’re not in the country.”
In response to Hong Kong protests over human rights and violations of democracy last year, Bloomberg defended Xi, saying, he “is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”
Bloomberg doubled down on this in an interview with Margaret Hoover on Firing Line in which he argued that “the Chinese Communist Party was ecologically friendly, democratically accountable, and invulnerable to the threat of revolution.”
In stunning contrast, even self-styled socialist and fellow candidate Bernie Sanders has noted: "In China, an inner circle led by Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad."
New reports constantly surfacing regarding the extent of the coronavirus mishandling and coverup by the Xi government are likely to plague Bloomberg during the rest of his electoral efforts. For a campaign that is universally tarred with attempting to buy the election, the addition of willfully defending an autocratic communist leader who opts for self-preservation over global safety is likely to prove disastrous for the billionaire’s presidential ambitions.
Lee Cohen is a fellow of the Danube Institute. He was an adviser on Europe to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.
Free Press International