Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday echoed claims he made about Xi Jinping in Tuesday night’s debate, refusing to say he's a dictator and arguing the Chinese people don't want democracy.
"If your definition is a democracy where people vote and pick their leaders, that is not what China’s about. And they don’t seem to want it. They like their system, and I think they’re wrong," the former New York City mayor said during a CNN town hall.
"It's a question of what is a dictator," he said. "They don't have a democracy in the sense that they have general elections. That is true. They do have a system where a small group of people appoint the head, and they turn over periodically."
Bloomberg granted that China "would be better off opening things up," since that is "the great strength of America."
During Tuesday night’s debate, Bloomberg did not call Xi a dictator, choosing instead to say the Chinese leader "serves at the behest of the Politburo," the executive committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The 25-person Politburo has sworn fealty to Xi, however, effectively making him dictator for life and bestowing on him the title "people’s leader" last year, which "directly echoes an accolade most closely associated with Communist China’s founder Mao Zedong," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Bloomberg, who has important business dealings in China, has long maintained Xi is not a dictator because "he has to satisfy his constituents, or he's not going to survive," as he told journalist Margaret Hoover.
Xi's government has forced more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims into what the state calls "reeducation" camps. The United States, along with 30 other countries, condemned China's treatment of its Uyghur minority as a "horrific campaign of repression."