Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 3 December 2021


  Ray Dalio’s China Equivalence

American political attitudes toward China’s Communist Party regime have changed dramatically in the past half-decade, and for good reason.

But some on Wall Street are still living in the 1990s.

Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio was especially tone-deaf in a CNBC appearance this week. Asked about his investments in China and Beijing’s human-rights abuses, the billionaire drew an equivalence with the U.S. “I look at the United States, and I say, well, what’s going on in the United States and should I not invest in the United States” because of “our own human-rights issues, or other things?”

Mr. Dalio acknowledged that China has “an autocratic system” (an improvement from Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 claim that Chinese President Xi Jinping is “not a dictator”). But pressed on China’s policy of “disappearing people,” he added, “that is their approach, we have our approach.” Tell that to publisher Jimmy Lai, who is locked in jail merely for asking China to live up to the promises it made about Hong Kong autonomy. This is the sort of comment that sours Americans on Wall Street and opens executives to accusations of being “citizens of the world” before they are Americans. Mr. Dalio wants freedom to invest where he pleases, but if Wall Street titans convey contempt for America’s system of government, then voters

  will curtail their prerogatives through the political process.

It’s true that many U.S. firms invest in authoritarian countries, and investors don’t need to go out of their way to make moral pronouncements about every one of them. But China of 2021 is not the China of 1995. It’s a harsh authoritarian regime, with extraordinary state and technological power backing it up as it directly threatens U.S. interests and individual liberty on the global stage.

Mr. Dalio can lawfully invest in China if he chooses, but he wouldn’t be as successful as he is without the American rule of law and property rights. If he can’t make a principled distinction between the governments of China and the U.S., he has a moral blind spot and he isn’t worth listening to as a business sage.

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