Even when you’re one of the most powerful financiers in America, it seems you need to watch what you say about China.
Speaking on a panel at the Boston College Chief Executives Club on Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon cracked a fairly mild, if politically tactless, joke: “I was just in Hong Kong and I made a joke that the Communist Party is celebrating its hundredth year,” he said. “So is JPMorgan. And I’ll make a bet we last longer.”
Dimon added, “I can’t say that in China. They are probably listening anyway.”
Apparently, he can’t say that in America either.
By Wednesday, after having “internal discussions” with his bank’s government-relations team, per Bloomberg, Dimon tried to do some cleanup. He said in a statement, “I regret and should not have made that comment. I was trying to emphasize the strength and longevity of our company.”
As Bloomberg notes, JPMorgan Chase has $20 billion of exposure in China, so offending Xi Jinping could have major financial repercussions. And there is little evidence that the man can take a joke. To take one example of his sensitivity: In 2018, Chinese censors banned the release of the movie Christopher Robin because of Xi’s resemblance to Winnie the Pooh.
The forced-to-backtrack-on-China-comments is a now-familiar cycle in Western industries that have large stakes in the world’s second-biggest economy, like the movie business. Western sports leagues have also toed a very cautious line — though the recent disappearance of Peng Shuai may have changed that calculus.