Im-Politic: Bloomberg in China’s Pocket?

Boy! I thought Michael Bloomberg’s business’ dependence on China was worrisome when I first read

Boy! I thought Michael Bloomberg’s business’ dependence on China was worrisome when I first read this early January Financial Times report on the billionaire Democratic presidential candidate’s lucrative conference-holding business in the People’s Republic!

Then thanks to a segment last week on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News cable talk show, I checked out this Washington Post piece on the same subject – which I somehow missed – and I’ve gotten even more worried. And since Bloomberg has been rising steadily in the polls in recent weeks, and is spending a big chunk of his fortune on the campaign, you should be worried, too.

Now I know what at least some of you are thinking: President Trump and his family have done a lot of business with China, too. So why single out the former New York City mayor?

Here’s why: First, I strongly agreed that it was unacceptable for presidential daughter Ivanka Trump to stay involved in any way with her fashion business after her father’s election, especially since it sourced products from China and sought to sell in the Chinese market. She finally agreed with this (widespread) view and shut down the brand in mid-2018. So that’s one big difference between the Trumps and Bloomberg, since the latter is still making big bucks in China.

More important, though – with Trump tariffs still in place on literally hundreds of billions of dollars worth of prospective Chinese exports to the United States, and the President having made life tough for China in numerous other major ways ranging from prosecuting telecommunications giant Huawei to strongly supporting Taiwan in word and deed, can anyone seriously believe that Mr. Trump has been soft on Beijing?

Bloomberg, by contrast, clearly has, and his record of panda-hugging is not only several years old, but has continued unabated during his run for the White House. The aforementioned Post article spells out in detail the pro-China positions he’s taken, which include opposition to the Trump tariffs (without explaining how he’d deal with Chinese trade abuses he’s acknowledged) and the insistence that China’s communist leader Xi Jinping “is not a dictator” (made as Beijing was cracking down on Hong Kong’s democracy protests and imprisoning on a massive, concentration camp-like scale members of the country’s Muslim Uighur minority group.

And when his ongoing business dealings with the Chinese are examined in detail, it’s easy to see why Bloomberg has worked so hard to remain in Beijing’s good graces. For example, as the Post reported, Bloomberg ”expanded one of his company’s financial indexes, which could steer $150 billion into China while earning his firm an undisclosed amount in fees.”

In effect, this move awarded the Chinese government and the various commercial and financial entities it controls a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval valued immensely by big institutional investors who control trillions of dollars worth of savings around the world.

Moreover, according to Post reporter Michael Kranish, “mainland China accounts for 1 percent of Bloomberg LP’s [$10 billion in annual] revenue and Hong Kong for another 4 percent.”

As for those China conferences, the Financial Times revealed that

live events now make up nearly 15 per cent of all revenues for the news division that sits within the billionaire’s financial data company.

This has grown from less than 1 per cent in 2014, thanks largely to the success of one event: the New Economy Forum. Mr Bloomberg launched the conference last year, aimed at connecting global business leaders with the Chinese elite.

Only in its second year, the NEF already makes up about 65 per cent of all live events revenue for Bloomberg Media, according to a spokesperson.”

And if you still doubt China’s importance to Bloomberg’s coffers, consider that, as Kranish wrote, Bloomberg “has led efforts since 2015 to make it easier for U.S. companies to trade in Chinese currency, a move embraced by China’s largest banks” – which are of course all run by the state.

Bloomberg’s successes in public opinion surveys anyway has led to charges that he’s trying to buy the presidency. At least equally important to ask is whether the Chinese have bought Bloomberg.

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