And Mind Your Own Business
From an Article in the WSJ, November 6, 2010
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on a visit to Hong Kong and the neighboring city of Shenzhen, had some harsh criticism for his own fellow Americans: Stop blaming the Chinese for their problems.|
As the debate rages over China’s trade and currencies policies, the 68-year-old Bloomberg, now in his third term as mayor of New York, was tough on China’s critics in the U.S. He spoke to reporters Saturday in Hong Kong after addressing a meeting of leaders from top cities around the world, dubbed the C40, focused on climate change and environment.
“I think in America, we’ve got to stop blaming the Chinese and blaming everybody else and take a look at ourselves,” he said.
A day earlier, Mr. Bloomberg visited several businesses (incluing a solar panel maker) in Shenzhen, a manufacturing hub that borders Hong Kong.
China’s big push into solar and other environmentally friendly energy technologies has begun to attract negative attention. Last month, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said it would investigate China’s policies over complaints that the country was using tactics that violated its World Trade Organization commitments to shut other countries out of the burgeoning market for clean energy.
Mr. Bloomberg attacked the notion that using Chinese-made technology to promote green energy in the U.S. was politically objectionable. “Let me get this straight: There’s a country on the other side of the world that is taking their taxpayers’ dollars, and trying to sell subsidized things so we can buy them cheaper, and have better products, and we’re going to criticize that?”
Earlier, in an interview, the mayor was deeply, undiplomatically critical of provincialism and populism in U.S. Congress.
“If you look at the U.S., you look at who we’re electing to Congress, to the Senate—they can’t read,” he said. “I’ll bet you a bunch of these people don’t have passports. We’re about to start a trade war with China if we’re not careful here,” he warned, “only because nobody knows where China is. Nobody knows what China is.”
The mayor said his biggest impression from meeting his mayoral counterparts from China (the C40 includes about a half dozen heads of major cities in China) was their focus on environmental issues.
In the past, he said, “they have focused on jobs, jobs, jobs, economic development at all costs. Now all of a sudden they are realizing their rivers are becoming undrinkable, their air is killing people.”
China’s growing concern for the environment was good for Hong Kong, he noted, given how much of the city’s pollution problem wafts in across its border with the rest of the country. He recalled many years ago renting a helicopter (he’s a certified pilot) and flying it into the city’s mountainous New Territories district, only to get lost in the pollution.
“At one point I had to go down almost to tree level to figure out where I was, just to get out.”
Bloomberg, whose past business experience frequently took him to Asia, spoke highly of prospects for Hong Kong, where the stock exchange has dominated the global market for initial public offerings for a second year.
“The future of Hong Kong as a financial center is not going to be challenged by anybody else in Asia,” he said. Going in its favor were widespread use of English; a family-friendly, low-crime environment that attracts workers; and ease of commuting.
“The only other city that has the potential of doing that, of course, is Singapore,” he added, but not Tokyo. “I love Tokyo, but unless you speak Japanese, you can’t survive.”