Mike Bloomberg was presiding over his inaugural Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore in 2018 when, to the surprise of some in the audience, he gushed about one of China’s top government officials.
Vice President Wang Qishan was “the most influential political figure in China and in the world,” Bloomberg said, breaking from a prepared text that had said the keynote speaker was “one of” the most influential. Bloomberg noted that he and Wang had first met at Bloomberg’s home 15 years earlier, when he was mayor of New York and Wang was mayor of Beijing, and he praised the vice president for helping lead China “through a period of extraordinary growth.”
Then in September, amid mass pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and human rights activists decrying China’s imprisonment of Muslim minorities, Bloomberg seemed to go out of his way to defend Beijing, saying in a television interview that President Xi Jinping “is not a dictator.” Bloomberg said Xi “has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.” Pressed by the interviewer, Bloomberg said Xi “has a constituency to respond to . . . they really are responsive.”