MELBOURNE, Nov 24 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Maybe Jamie Dimon learned something about President Xi Jinping’s sense of humour during his recent visit to Hong Kong. The JPMorgan (JPM.N) boss was clearly just looking for a chuckle read more on Tuesday when he said he’d wager that his bank would outlast China’s Communist Party, following up with, “I can’t say that in China. They are probably listening anyway.” As others can attest, however, the blowback from Beijing after perceived slights is often no laughing matter.
Dimon is no stranger to impolitic remarks. He harangued regulators including then-Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke about post-financial crisis rules. In 2018, he said he could beat then-President Donald Trump in an election. In 2012, he described a giant JPMorgan trading scandal as a “complete tempest in a teapot.”
UBS (UBSG.S), for one, knows all too well what can happen when a seemingly innocuous comment is blown out of proportion. Back in 2019, one of the Swiss bank’s senior economists landed himself and his employer in hot water after a remark about food inflation and swine fever was misconstrued as a racist slur. He was suspended for three months and UBS lost a plum role on a bond deal for a state-backed client.
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Italian fashion giant Dolce and Gabbana’s mainland business suffered heavily after a 2018 series of promotions featured a Chinese model trying to eat pizza and pasta with chopsticks. Qantas (QAN.AX), Zara and Marriott International (MAR.O) are among those who ran into problems after identifying Taiwan as a country in their marketing and websites.
JPMorgan might not be a household brand in China, but it has worked hard to put itself on firm footing there. It was one of the first overseas banks allowed to fully own its domestic investment bank, and last week Dimon was the first Wall Street boss to visit the region since the pandemic began. He was even exempted from Hong Kong’s three-week hotel quarantine. read more
Beijing’s reaction, if there is one, might not be immediately obvious. Invitations to pitch for deals can get lost in the post or new approvals sought by the bank could drop to the bottom of a bureaucratic pile. Dimon will know soon enough whether he turned his bank into a Chinese punchline.
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