Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has pulled out of his company's high-profile conference in Beijing next week, in the latest sign that his nascent presidential campaign is dead serious.
Bloomberg was expected to serve as host of the second New Economy Forum, opening next Wednesday for the first time in Beijing as an attempt to create an elite Asian counterweight to the legendary annual business conference at Davos.
A company spokesman confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Bloomberg would not attend the conference and said a delegation including former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former treasury secretary Hank Paulson would still be attending.
The forum was held in Singapore in 2018 after hopes for a Beijing event were scuttled by international tensions, but the 2019 event is expected to host an array of senior business figures from both the US and China, and to focus on the how "economic power is shifting dramatically from the West to new economies," according to its website.
Bloomberg's move is the latest sign that the former mayor, if he decides to actually run, would bring to the 2020 campaign the power of his wealth, his experience as an effective and low-profile administrator, and his connection to key issues — gun control and climate change — that are important to Democratic voters.
But the mere fact that he is choosing to skip his own company's new entry to the pinnacle of global capitalism also highlights the central question about his potential candidacy: Can one of the most successful figures in the new global capitalism appeal to a Democratic Party deciding whether it wants to be capitalist at all, and whose central figure is selling mugs to drink billionaires' tears?
The conference also highlights Bloomberg's relatively sanguine views on China amid a trade war with President Donald Trump and global condemnation of the country's human rights practices. Bloomberg recently defended Chinese President Xi Jinping who, he told Firing Line, is “not a dictator" and praised China's progress on climate change.
Bloomberg has filed for the Democratic presidential primary ballots in two states in the last week: Alabama and Arkansas. But he is still officially making up his mind on whether or not he will formally run for president.
Bloomberg defended President Xi to Firing Line. An earlier version of this story misstated where those comments were made.