Bloomberg News killed an investigation into a Chinese aristocrat, reportedly over concerns that China’s authoritarian regime would cut ties with billionaire businessman (and former New York City mayor) Michael Bloomberg if the story ran.
Bloomberg News founding editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler blocked an investigative piece into China’s wealthiest man, Wang Jianlin, in 2013 over fears that the article could bring retribution from the Chinese government, according to recordings obtained by NPR. The piece was set to run as a follow-up to an award-winning investigation of Chinese President Xi Jinping and China’s elite.
The revelation comes as United States political leaders are ramping up pressure on US businesses to sever ties with China, especially in the wake of the coronavirus that originated in China and has effectively shut down huge swaths of the world economy. As the Daily Wire has previously reported, China has powerful influence not only over US supply chains and entertainment, but apparently over US media as well, through its business ties.
At the time, Winkler and other Bloomberg News editors said the second installment was tabled because it needed additional reporting. In a 2013 conference call with the reporters who worked on the story, Winkler gave a different rationale.
“It is for sure going to, you know, invite the Communist Party to, you know, completely shut us down and kick us out of the country,” Winkler said. “So, I just don’t see that as a story that is justified.”
“The inference is going to be interpreted by the government there as we are judging them,” Winkler said, expressing worry about publishing reporting on Wang Jianlin and his connections to President Xi. “And they will probably kick us out of the country. They’ll probably shut us down, is my guess.”
The recordings, obtained by NPR, confirm comments made during the 2013 conference call that were reported by the New York Times in part at the time.
NPR’s reporting also backs up accusations made by Intercept journalist Leta Hong Fincher, the wife of former Bloomberg News Beijing correspondent Mike Forsythe, one of the reporters who worked on the investigation into China’s elite. Fincher said that Bloomberg L.P. “threatened to devastate my family financially” if she did not sign a non-disclosure agreement over her husband’s work.
After the first article ran in 2012, China cracked down on Bloomberg’s operations within the country. The regime refused to renew reporter visas and raided Bloomberg News offices. The Chinese government also began cutting business ties with Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of Bloomberg News, owned and controlled by Bloomberg.
Bloomberg L.P.’s chief product is one-year leases on its Bloomberg terminals, which contain a host of finance monitoring tools as well as early access to Bloomberg News articles. An annual lease for a terminal costs at least $20,000.
Bloomberg viewed China as a priority for marketing the terminals and expanding business, three former Bloomberg executives told NPR. After the Bloomberg News article on Xi dropped, the Chinese government ordered state-owned companies not to renew their leases for Bloomberg terminals.
In the 2013 conference call, Winkler did not kill the second story outright but suggested that the reporting team come up with a unique way of covering it that did not alienate the Chinese Communist Party leaders that controlled the government.
“It has to be done with a strategic framework and a tactical method that is … smart enough to allow us to continue and not run afoul of the Nazis who are in front of us and behind us everywhere,” Winkler said. “And that’s who they are. And we should have no illusions about it.”
A Bloomberg News spokesperson declined to comment. Bloomberg L.P. did not immediately return a request for comment.
This article has been updated to reflect that Bloomberg News declined to comment.