The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page is the rare corner of U.S. corporate media with the intrepidness to call out Communist China for the oppressively authoritarian regime that it is. Writers for the section even must withstand formidable pressure from their news side colleagues to play nice with Xi Jinping, China’s leader for life. Last February, more than 50 WSJ reporters and editors signed a petition demanding the Journal’s commentary section change a headline China deemed racist.
The section’s editors held their ground, implicitly telling their colleagues to go f – – – themselves.
The Journal’s editorial writers also have the cojones to call out U.S. hedge fund billionaires who suck up to Xi’s regime. After Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio praised China for being “a strict parent” with regards to “disappearing people” who criticize the regime and equated China’s human rights abuses to those of the U.S., the Journal opined, “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.”
The Journal got that right. Dalio, who enjoys the limelight and is like Donald Trump in dismissing stories he doesn’t like as “fake and distorted news,” apparently concluded that his China fawning wasn’t good for his image. He has since backtracked, claiming he “sloppily answered” a question during a CNBC interview that “created a misunderstanding of his views.”
Frankly, I’d respect Dalio a lot more if he resisted the criticism and stayed true to being the China sycophant that he is. According to a September 2017 WSJ report, Dalio repeatedly cautioned Bridgewater’s hundreds of investment researchers about writing outright negative outlooks about China.
Unless you closely follow Wall Street, chances are you’re unfamiliar with Ray Dalio. In my mind he is the embodiment of the greed, arrogance, hypocrisy and lack of shame required to reach the billionaire stratosphere of money management professionals. It’s hardly a surprise that Dalio admires Xi’s “strict parent” ways because that’s how Dalio runs his firm. Current and former employees have likened the firm’s supposed “radical transparency” to the “struggle sessions” from the Cultural Revolution era, when Chinese citizens were encouraged to publicly criticize and punish one another.
I imagine Dalio sees a lot of himself in Xi and admires the way the dictator controls more than one billion citizens with an iron fist.
Dalio founded Bridgewater in 1975. The firm is a darling of institutional clients such as pension funds, endowments, foundations, foreign governments, and central banks. Bridgewater was a pioneer in so-called fintech, using computational systems, big data techniques, and artificial intelligence to drive its investment decisions. It is the world’s largest hedge fund, with more than $223 billion in assets.
Dalio has good reason to revere China, which he first visited in 1984. The Chinese government and Chinese institutions are among his biggest clients. Bridgewater recently raised the U.S. equivalent of $1.25 billion for its third investment fund in China, making it among the biggest foreign managers of private funds in the world’s second-largest economy. According to the Wall Street Journal, the fund will be a trust product overseen by state-owned China Resources Trust.
Bridgewater is run in accordance with Dalio’s “Principles,” a 123-page manifesto, which demands “radical transparency” whereby most meetings are recorded and employees are expected to identify the weaknesses of others. Not surprisingly, about 20 percent of Bridgewater employees quit after their first year.
Dalio’s “Principles” became a best-selling memoir. An app based on the book featured a 2013 “Family Reunion” video of employees who had been at Bridgewater for ten years or more. “Every one of these people here is, you know, my family,” Mr. Dalio said in the video. “I’ve watched them get married and have their kids. You know, I didn’t behave any different to the people I work with than my kids.”
In July 2020, in the wake of steep investment losses, Bridgewater implemented massive layoffs. According to WSJ, some of the layoffs included “family members” featured in the video.
As in Communist China, Bridgewater is adept at quietly making employees disappear. WSJ in 2017 reported the firm forced out and paid an unidentified woman $1 million after she engaged in a consensual relationship with top executive Greg Jensen, who also was accused of groping another woman’s buttocks. WSJ also reported that Jensen once hired a stripper with a feathered boa to surprise Dalio at an off-site event before 1,000 guests. Jensen, who was president of his Dartmouth College fraternity, is Bridgewater’s co-chief investment officer.
Despite Bridgewater’s “radical transparency,” the woman who received the $1 million settlement agreed to a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from talking about the incident that led to the agreement.
Dalio’s denunciation of the Journal’s story was similar to the moral high ground China claims when it trashes news stories not to its liking. “I judge Greg to be a man of high character and I would not have tolerated the pattern of behavior inaccurately described by The Wall Street Journal,” Dalio said. Jensen also denied the story, saying it was “salacious and inaccurate” and “I’m deeply disappointed with (WSJ’s) sense of responsibility.”
According to a February 2020 Dealbreaker report, employees expressed concerns when Dalio years ago arranged a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss economic policy. Dalio reportedly replied to one critic: “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” When employees expressed concern about Bridgewater maintaining its Saudi ties in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s late-2018 murder, Dalio reportedly insisted the firm’s loyalty would be valued highly.
I’m increasingly coming to appreciate that most Americans don’t share my outrage about U.S. executives selling out America to China. The Journal reported the other day that Wi Jinping, China’s leader, regards Tesla founder and South Africa-born Elon Musk as a technology utopian with no allegiance to any country. Wi has successfully used Tesla to help China achieve electric vehicle supremacy.
I’d be horrified, particularly as a U.S. emigrant, to be portrayed as someone whose loyalty to America China’s premier doubted and successfully exploited. Musk apparently isn’t experiencing any pangs of embarrassment. In an interview the Journal posted today, Musk seemingly reaffirmed Xi’s perception of him is correct.
“I don’t mean to endorse everything China does any more than I would, say, endorse everything the United States does, or any country,” Musk said.
A true citizen of the world. Musk’s motto is, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what every country can do for you.”
In a December, 2019 LinkedIn post, Dalio lamented the lack of “recognized heroes,” claiming “we aren’t lacking real heroes.” I imagine Dalio considers himself among the rarified group.
Dalio believes that people like me should adulate his greatness or keep our mouths shut.
The cynics are people who haven’t accomplished much themselves and stand on the sidelines while criticizing the heroes who are on their fields of battle. They arrogantly pontificate about how those on the field aren’t following the cynics’ untested and impractical approaches. Cynics also love to point to the mistakes the heroes make, ignoring the reality that all successful people make plenty of mistakes. In the process, they conjure up unrealistic images that heroes must be perfect rather than imperfect but great and much more successful than unsuccessful.
Dalio can revel in his success all he wants. I’d rather be a person of lesser accomplishment than be among elite U.S. chief executives who willingly and gladly are aiding China achieve its goal of world domination.