Looks like Thomas Friedman has at least one devoted reader. In an interview with PBS two months ago, now-presidential contender Michael Bloomberg told Margaret Hoover that China’s Xi Jinping has made large strides in dealing with pollution because “he has a constituency to answer to.” New York Magazine’s Intelligencer picked up on this clip yesterday, aghast at Bloomberg’s decision to “run in the ‘unrepentant Stalinist’ lane of the Democratic primary.”
As Berkeley Breathed once wrote in a classic Bloom County strip, “Well, maybe not that bad, but Lord, it isn’t good”:
Bloomberg: China is doing a lot. Yes, they’re still building a lot of coal-fired power plants.
Hoover: And they’re still burning coal.
Bloomberg: Yes, they are, but they’re now moving plants away from the cities. The Communisty Party wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public. 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.
Hoover: He’s not a dictator?
Bloomberg: No, he has a constituency to answer to.
Hoover: He doesn’t have a vote. He doesn’t have a democracy. He’s not held accountable by voters.
Bloomberg: If his advisers gave him —
Hoover: Is the check on him just a revolution?
Bloomberg: You’re not going to have a revolution. No government survives without the will of the majority of its people.
Bear in mind that Xi is currently sending millions of Uighirs into re-education camps and is laying siege to Hong Kong for its insufficient adherence to Xi’s vision. It may not succeed — in fact, it’s highly unlikely to do so — but there is a revolution now playing out in real time in Hong Kong, where Xi’s “constituency” is busy answering back … and likely to get killed for it. The Uighir round-up began long before this interview, and even the uprising in Hong Kong had been in motion for a few months, so there’s no excuse at all for this bizarre rose-colored glasses view of Beijing.
Even apart from that, it’s clear that Bloomberg will offer no resistance to China’s assertiveness if elected president. Donald Trump’s approach might have its flaws, but it at least has the virtue of attempting to thwart Xi’s cheating on trade and environmental policies, among other atrocities. Not even Joe Biden would go this far in promising a prostrate policy in regard to China. This exchange should be disqualifying even in a Democratic primary. Let’s see if it is.