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Jamie Dimon: JPMorgan boss regrets joke about Chinese Communist Party

Speaking at an event in Boston on Tuesday JPMorgan (JPM) CEO he said he “made a joke” during a recent trip to Hong Kong, referring to the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary.
“The Communist Party is celebrating its 100th year. JPMorgan is doing the same,” he said, referring to the bank’s recent celebration of a century of operations in China. “And I want to make sure we last longer.”

“I can not say that in China,”[ads1]; Dimon added with a laugh. “They probably listen anyway.”

The comments were a rare display of openness from a senior business executive about the management of the world’s second largest economy, which has hit private companies hard over the past year.

But in a statement on Wednesday, Dimon went back.

“I regret and should not have made that comment. I tried to emphasize the strength and longevity of our company,” he said.

A spokesperson for JPMorgan said that the bank was committed to China and that Dimon had made it clear during the discussion in Boston that “China and its people are very smart and very thoughtful.”

“Dimon acknowledges that he should never speak lightly or disrespectfully about another country or its leadership,” the spokesman added.

Speaking at a Foreign Ministry press conference on Thursday, spokesman Zhao Lijian downplayed the case and said he had “noticed relevant reports and the sincere reflection expressed by relevant people”.

“I think this is the right attitude,” Zhao added. “We hope the relevant media will stop hyping this issue.”

The United States’ largest bank has made significant inroads into China in recent years, where it has enjoyed certain privileges. Earlier this year, the lender won approval from regulators to take full ownership of its Chinese investment firms, a sign that the country was further opening for international companies.

In a statement at the time, Dimon called China “one of the biggest opportunities in the world for many of our customers and for JPMorgan Chase.”

Last week, Dimon also made headlines on his trip to Hong Kong, where he received a special government exemption for skipping one of the world’s longest quarantines.
JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon allowed the quarantine to be dropped in Hong Kong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the leader was given special permission for “Hong Kong’s economy”, citing the size of the bank’s operations in the city, which is home to its regional headquarters.

Dimon quoted that trip on Tuesday as saying, “Of course I do not have freedom of speech in China … as I have in Hong Kong. I do not have it in Hong Kong anymore either.” He did not elaborate further.

The U.S. CEO spoke at Boston College, where he gave a comprehensive talk on the United States, China, and other topics.

At one point, Dimon compared the political and economic approaches of both countries, saying that in the United States, “we have the gifts of our founders: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise, freedom of human capital, immigration.”

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“If you opened the doors to America, a billion people would come here. If you opened the doors to China, how many people would think you would go there?” he said.

“[An] autocratic … economy does not work very well as a country becomes much more sophisticated. And I’m not saying this to be angry with China. I think they have done a better job of managing that country than we would have done in managing that country. They are very smart. “

Dimon also dismissed criticism that JPMorgan “should not do business in China” because of opposition to any of its policies.

“We are in Russia. We are in Pakistan. We are in Egypt. You know? And we are there for the people of the country. We have been very consistent, we hope to be there for a long time,” he said.

“JPMorgan can not travel to a country and go in and out every time we like or dislike something the government does. Hell, I would leave America, would I not?”

– CNN’s Beijing agency contributed to this report.

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