JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is walking back his wisecrack that the Wall Street giant he helms will outlive the Chinese Communist Party.
“The Communist Party is celebrating its 100th year — so is JPMorgan,” Dimon had said in a speech at Boston College on Tuesday. “I’d make a bet that we last longer.”
At the time, Dimon acknowledged the quip might stir controversy. “I can’t say that in China,” Dimon had added. “They are probably listening anyway.”
On Wednesday morning, however, the 65-year-old banker — who had just visited Hong Kong last week — was busy doing damage control.
“I regret and should not have made that comment. I was trying to emphasize the strength and longevity of our company,” Dimon said in a statement.
“I regret my recent comment because it’s never right to joke about or denigrate any group of people, whether it’s a country, its leadership, or any part of a society and culture,” Dimon added. “Speaking in that way can take away from constructive and thoughtful dialogue in society, which is needed now more than ever.”
In a press conference Wednesday, a Chinese official, Zhao Lijian, dismissed Dimon’s joke and said news publications were merely looking to make headlines with a “publicity stunt.”
Dimon’s remarks came just days after the hard-charging Dimon returned from his whirlwind trip to Hong Kong, which had allowed him to skip the usual quarantine requirements even as it cracks down on other visitors amid an outbreak in cases.
Hong Kong officials justified the exception by saying Dimon had “important business” in the country. He is the first major Wall Street executive to visit the nation since the outbreak of coronavirus.
JPMorgan first entered China in 1921, the same year the country’s Communist Party was established. In August, the bank was granted permission from the Chinese government to take full and independent ownership of its securities business. It was the first foreign bank to win this approval. JPMorgan also is working on a deal to buy a piece of China Merchants Bank.
Dimon reiterated JPMorgan’s commitment to operating in the country even as he acknowledged longstanding tensions with the US. He said issues like unfair trade practices should’ve been addressed earlier — but added JPMorgan can’t sever business ties with a country just because it disagrees with a policy.