Former New York city mayor Mike Bloomberg downplayed China’s contribution to climate change during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, arguing that the rapidly industrializing superpower has “slowed down” its pollution in recent years.
“Well you’re not going to go to war with them. You have to negotiate with them, and we’ve seen how well that works, with tariffs that are hurting us” Bloomberg said. “What we have to do is convince the Chinese that it is in their interest as well — their people are going to die, just as our people are going to die, and we’ll work together. In all fairness, the Chinese have slowed down, it’s India that is even a bigger problem.”
While China has made progress in curbing emissions in recent years, it remains the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide due to its massive population and commensurate manufacturing base.
Bloomberg has repeatedly defended the Chinese Communist Party in the past, and said in September that “Xi Jinping is not a dictator,” when asked a similar question on PBS’s Firing Line on how to limit China’s greenhouse emissions.
“China is doing a lot, India is doing some, but I think that China is doing a lot. Yes, they are still burning a lot of coal-fired power plants, yes they are, but they’re now moving plants away from the cities,” Bloomberg claimed. “The Communist 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 Jingping is not a dictator, he has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”
The comments drew a scathing criticism from Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), who called Bloomberg’s remarks “the kind of stupid you can’t script.”
Bloomberg has extensive business interests in China, and has headed efforts to allow the trading of Chinese currency in U.S. banks. In 2013, The New York Times reported that Bloomberg’s media conglomerate stifled its reporting on Chinese premier Xi Jingping after Beijing imposed restrictions on the Bloomberg News for its investigative reporting.
Bloomberg did not deny that his company halted its reporting in accordance with Beijing’s censorship demands in comments to CNBC in 2014.
“In China, they have rules about what you can publish. We follow those rules. If you don’t follow the rules, you’re not in the country,” he said.