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Jamie Dimon Quickly Backtracks on Mild China Joke

Intelligencer logo Intelligencer 11/24/2021 Benjamin Hart
I didn’t mean what I clearly meant! Michel Euler - Pool/AFP via Getty Images © Michel Euler - Pool/AFP via Getty Images I didn’t mean what I clearly meant! Michel Euler - Pool/AFP via Getty Images

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.”


Video: China's Xi says HK situation improved from 'chaos' (Reuters)

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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.

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