Michael Bloomberg told Firing Line host Margaret Hoover that Chinese president Xi Jinping is "not a dictator" and insisted the Chinese Communist Party listens to its constituents. The comments come in the wake of the former New York mayor's announcement of an economic forum in Beijing this November.
Bloomberg defended China's ruling communist regime citing its handling of pollution and environmental policy, claiming that it is responding to the needs of citizens. The billionaire's comments come amid months of violent protest in Hong Kong and international outcry about the oppression of Chinese Muslims.
"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?" Hoover asked. "He doesn't have a vote, he doesn't have a democracy. He's not held accountable by voters. Is the check on him just a revolution?"
"No, he has a constituency to answer to," Bloomberg responded. "You're not going to have a revolution. No government survives without the will of the majority of its people."
.@MikeBloomberg tells @FiringLineShow that China's leader is addressing pollution to satisfy constituents & secure his political future.
"The Communist Party wants to stay in power in China and they listen to the public," he says. pic.twitter.com/B9SoAXJwrM
— Firing Line with Margaret Hoover (@FiringLineShow) September 27, 2019
For months Hong Kong has been engulfed in sometimes violent protests about a bill that would have allowed for the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. Protesters have argued the bill represents a violation of Hong Kong's rights as a semi-autonomous region of China.
When Hoover pointed this out, Bloomberg insisted the Chinese Communist Party is responsive to its constituents.
"There's always in government, even governments that aren't what we call a democracy, there are lots of stakeholders who have vested interests and they have an impact," he said.
China has forced more than 1 million Chinese Uyghur Muslims into what the Chinese government described as "reeducation" internment camps. The United States, along with 30 other countries, condemned China's treatment of its Uyghur minority as a "horrific campaign of repression." John Sullivan, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, invited other countries "to join the international effort to demand and compel an immediate end to China's horrific campaign of repression."
This week, a human rights lawyer accused the Chinese government of murdering members of the Uyghur minority and the Falun Gong religious group to harvest organs. The lawyer called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the claims.
Updated: 12:47 p.m.: This post was updated to note Bloomberg's upcoming economic forum in Beijing.