As trade, democracy, and human rights standoff between Washington and Beijing has escalated in recent years, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has increased his business and ties to the Chinese communist regime, which could imply a conflict of interest in his race to the White House.
A Washington Post report released Jan. 1 outlines the financial mogul’s business dealings with the Asian giant that began at least 25 years ago when he opened his first offices in Beijing.
The billionaire, whose core business is providing financial information to investors, has led efforts since 2015 to make it easier for U.S. companies to trade in Chinese currency, a move taken by China’s largest banks. Bloomberg’s move could have transferred some $150 billion to Beijing, while leaving the company with an undisclosed amount of fees, says journalist Michael Kranish.
In total, China accounts for 1 percent of Bloomberg LP’s revenue and Hong Kong for an additional 4 percent.
While Bloomberg, who is the ninth richest person in the world, has pulled away from running his company since launching his presidential bid, he owns 88 percent of the shares.
Indeed, if the former New York mayor is elected president, he will have to deal with the same Chinese officials he worked closely with while running his business but, in his new position, he would have to face a trade war and take a stand on human rights violations by the Chinese communist regime, among other sensitive issues.
What Bloomberg thinks about this can be found in his recent statements.
In 2018, for example, he surprised by saying that China’s Wang Qishan, was “the most influential political figure in China and in the world.”
In September of this year, amid pro-democracy and civil liberties protests in Hong Kong and reports exposing the lack of freedom of belief and the imprisonment of Uighurs in mainland China, Bloomberg again drew attention by stating on television that Xi Jinping “is not a dictator” and that he “has to satisfy his constituents.”
When asked by The Washington Post about these topics, Bloomberg refused a request for an interview. Instead, spokesman Jason Schechter said the presidential candidate will speak in due course about areas in which he has “profound differences with China, including on human rights, democratic freedoms, and trade.”
He also said that Bloomberg does support sanctions against Beijing in response to serious human rights violations against the Uighurs.
“When Mike Bloomberg does interviews and says that Xi is not a dictator, I think Mike Bloomberg is blinded by his wallet,” Kyle Bass, a hedge fund manager, said.
“His biggest weakness and biggest vulnerability is on China,” he adds in a dialogue with The Washington Post.
In 2013, Bloomberg LP failed to publish research in China as originally written because it feared it would offend Chinese leaders, according to The New York Times.
A year later, when asked if he had “muzzled” his own journalists in China, the company’s director left no doubt: “In China, they have rules about what you can publish. We follow those rules.”
Since then, the relationship between Bloomberg and Beijing has flourished.
Parag Khanna, founder of the strategic consulting firm FutureMap and author of the book “The Future is Asian,” called Bloomberg LP “the world’s largest private intelligence service.”
Indeed, investors around the globe rely on the company’s reports to analyze where to focus their capital. “[It] is vital to China’s efforts to entice investment in government bonds,” Kranish explained in his report.
In fact, in 2018 Bloomberg announced that it would add 333 Chinese government bonds to its Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index.
It is worth noting that Bloomberg LP earns a license fee when investment firms use the index as a basis for their financial investments.
Tens of billions of dollars of U.S. and global investment funds were thus left in the hands of four institutions of the Chinese regime itself and the China Development Bank.
What’s more, investors are expected to spend about $150 billion on Chinese bonds over the next two years.
In other words, while U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs go into effect, Bloomberg’s company is helping the Chinese economy, said analysts quoted by The Washington Post.
In fact, Bloomberg himself has publicly stated that he opposes the trade tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in its trade war with Beijing.
“It is a problem for a president, a public official, to continue to own business interests in countries that have been designated by the U.S. government as a strategic competitor,” concluded Andrew J. Nathan, a China specialist and professor of political science at Columbia University, quoted by The Washington Post.