Late last year, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on PBS’ “Firing Line.” When host Margaret Hoover asked him questions about China and climate change, Bloomberg expressed some curious thoughts.
“The communist party wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public,” Bloomberg said after Hoover noted the country’s high levels of air pollution.
“When the public says ‘I can’t breathe the air’ — Xi Jinping is not a dictator,” Bloomberg continued. “He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”
“He’s not a dictator?” Hoover asked, sounding surprised.
“No, he has a constituency to answer to,” the Democratic candidate insisted, adding, “No government survives without the will of the majority of its people.”
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When Hoover pointed to China’s lack of elections and its response to protesters in Hong Kong, Bloomberg simply ignored her objection, pointing instead to the supposed success China has had at reforming “cement plants and power plants.”
Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of China would know that Bloomberg’s statements are absurd. But while the fact’s don’t account for them, his business dealings might.
Bloomberg’s media and financial data empire does a lot of business in China, business that was dealt a serious blow in 2012 when the government retaliated for a negative story on its then Vice President Xi Jinping. As a result, state-owned businesses were banned from using Bloomberg’s data tracking terminals.
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However, relations with the country improved after the New York billionaire published a friendly op-ed in the communist People’s Daily newspaper. China removed the ban a year later.
Bloomberg isn't the only Democrat to take a soft line on China: former Vice President Joe Biden does too. In May of last year, Biden downplayed the threat that China poses, claiming the nation is "not competition for us."
China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. They can’t even figure out how to deal with the, the, the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the East–I mean the West. They can’t figure out how they’re gonna deal with the corruption that exists within the system. Now, I mean, I, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not, they’re not a competition for us.
The fact that China engages in widespread and systemic intellectual property theft apparently didn't occur to him. A 2018 report by the US Trade Representative estimated that it costs between $225 and $600 billion dollars annually and robs American companies of their competitiveness. This isn’t a new development: for decades, previous administrations turned a blind eye while American workers paid the price.
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And the danger isn’t just economic, as US defense contractors are regular targets of espionage. Weapons technology theft is especially concerning in light of what the Chinese military has been doing.
China is building up its armed forces with a special focus on air and sea power. At the same time, it’s also building a network of artificial islands in the South China Sea and has opened a naval base in East Africa–developments that could give China the power to choke off vital shipping lanes. On their own, these things would be bad enough; that they’re happening with stolen American know how is worse.
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Given all this, why would Biden deny China's growing power? Well, cluelessness is one possibility; corruption is another. His son Hunter Biden has extensive business ties to China.
On election night in 2016, Never-Trump Republican David Frum speculated that President Trump's business interests could open him up to bribery from China; his record has proven otherwise. If Trump's critics are really worried possible Chinese corruption, they should look at his opponents.
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