Now that liberal billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is officially running for president, some of his bizarre statements on China from earlier this year are getting some renewed attention.
During a late September interview with PBS, Bloomberg started out talking about China’s response to greenhouse gas emissions, then ended up defending the country’s government as responsive to its constituents and said that the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, is not a dictator.
This video is remarkable, asked about US a greenhouse gas emissions compared to China, Michael Bloomberg goes into a full throated defence of the regime in Beijing on the environment, on their lack of democracy. I can’t believe how bad this is.
— Brian Lilley (@brianlilley) November 28, 2019
“The communist party wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public,” Bloomberg said. “When the public says ‘I can’t breathe the air’ — Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”
“He’s not a dictator?” PBS’ Margaret Hoover asked.
“No,” the former New York mayor responded, “he has a constituency to answer to.”
Bloomberg’s statement is so absurd in the face of the facts that it’s honestly hard to decide where to begin confronting it. Perhaps the most incredible thing about his remarks is that he made them after the world had witnessed literally months of news reports about violent crackdowns against Hong Kong protesters by Beijing. The interview came just a few days before Beijing doubled its military presence and police shot a protester and a couple of weeks before Xi threatened “crushed bodies and shattered bones” against anyone trying “to split China in any part of the country.”
This also came months after the reports of Chinese concentration camps holding over one million Uighur Muslims, as well as the numerous reports about Beijing’s high-tech surveillance operation against the religious minority.
But the Xi regime’s track record of human rights abuses goes back way further than just those examples. Before that, a 2018 report also served to bolster the long-standing charges that the Chinese government sanctions live organ harvesting of members of the Falun Gong religious group. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Falun Gong also face government harassment, detention, and intimidation as well as “physical violence, psychiatric abuse, sexual assault, forced drug administration, and sleep deprivation.”
A 2019 international tribunal in London also concluded that the Chinese regime was harvesting organs from prison camp detainees, some of whom were still alive.
Beijing also reportedly tightened its control over Tibetan Buddhism in 2018, according to observers, and pursues “a strategy of forced assimilation and suppression of Tibetan Buddhism throughout Tibet.”
The Chinese government also routinely jails dissidents and led the world in political prisoners in 2018. Freedom House notes that “in its attitude toward political dissent, the Chinese Communist Party has proven much harsher than the old Soviet regime of the Brezhnev era.”
Then there’s the regime’s years-long crackdown against Christian churches, which has recently included the government trying to rewrite scripture. A report in January found that repression of Christianity in the country is at its worst levels since the infamous Cultural Revolution.
And sitting atop all of this is Xi Jinping, who came to power in 2013. Following a change to the country’s constitution in 2018, Xi is no longer held back by the term limits that would otherwise have ended his tenure in 2023. They were nixed in a rubber-stamp parliamentary vote, giving him the power to remain in office for the rest of his life. This was after a change in 2017 that symbolically anointed Xi as the country’s most powerful head since Mao Zedong.
Bloomberg’s argument that a move toward somewhat greener factories is proof that Xi isn’t a dictator is completely detached from reality.