George Soros says BlackRock’s China investments ‘tragic mistake’

BlackRock is the world’s largest money manager; last month it began offering investment products to Chinese individuals.

In recent weeks George Soros (pictured) has warned against closer economic ties to President Xi Jinping’s China [File: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg]

George Soros criticized BlackRock Inc.’s China push as a risk to clients’ money and U.S. security interests, in the billionaire financier and philanthropist’s latest broadside against investment in the world’s second-largest economy.

“Pouring billions of dollars into China now is a tragic mistake,” Soros wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. “It is likely to lose money for BlackRock’s clients and, more important, will damage the national security interests of the U.S. and other democracies.”

BlackRock is leading a global foray into China’s asset management industry. The world’s largest money manager last month began offering investment products to Chinese individuals, two months after winning approval to become the nation’s first wholly foreign-owned mutual fund firm.

The commentary was one several that Soros has written in recent weeks to warn against closer economic ties to Xi Jinping’s China amid a wave of market-roiling crackdowns. Soros denounced Xi in another Journal op-ed last month as “the most dangerous enemy of open societies in the world” and subsequently argued in the Financial Times that Congress should pass legislation limiting asset managers’ investments to “companies where actual governance structures are both transparent and aligned with stakeholders.”

In the latest piece, Soros said BlackRock appeared to misunderstand Xi, whose administration he said regarded all Chinese companies as “instruments of the one-party state.”

The divergent views from two of the world’s most influential money managers underscore the increasingly fraught environment confronting financial firms in Asia’s largest economy. While Xi has made it easier for foreign investors to participate in domestic markets, his government is also tightening its grip on the private sector and clashing with the U.S. on everything from cybersecurity to human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Soros said the curbs that began with the sudden cancellation of Ant Group Co.’s initial public offering last year have since “reached a crescendo.” He cited the actions against ride-hailing company Didi Global Inc. days after its New York listing, and the crackdown on “U.S.-financed” Chinese tutoring companies. Soros also said BlackRock managers must be aware of an “enormous crisis brewing in China’s real estate market.”

Although Soros remains an influential backer of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, he no longer manages outside money and is a minority voice for now on Wall Street. BlackRock, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and most of their major peers in money management and banking have decided the opportunities in China outweigh the risks.

“Today, the U.S. and China are engaged in a life and death conflict between two systems of governance: repressive and democratic,” Soros said.

Source: Bloomberg