Leaders of America’s biggest banks say they would follow any US directive on pulling business from China if Taiwan is ever attacked by Beijing.
JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, Citi (C) CEO Jane Fraser, and Bank of America (BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan were all pressed on the subject Wednesday by US Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, from Missouri, in a Capitol Hill hearing.
“We’ll follow [the] government’s guidance, which has been for decades to work with China, and if they change that position, we’ll immediately change it, as we did in Russia,” said Moynihan, citing the corporate response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Dimon said JPMorgan would “absolutely salute and follow whatever the American government says — which is you all — and what you want us to do.”
Asked what she would do if the decision was left to her, Fraser said that it was “highly likely that we would have a materially reduced presence, if any at all in the country.”
“We very much hope it doesn’t happen,” she added.
Tensions have been rising recently between the United States and China over Taiwan, a self-governed democratic island that the Communist leadership in Beijing has long claimed as part of its territory, despite having never ruled over it.
Earlier this year, Russia’s attack on Ukraine renewed fears that China could be emboldened to advance its own military aggression toward Taiwan. In an interview that aired this past weekend, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed that US forces would defend the territory against any aggression from mainland China.
The three US lenders have a long history of operating in China. Citi, which bills itself “as the first American bank to fly the red, white and blue flag in China,” opened its first office there in 1902 and calls the country one of its “greatest priorities.”
JPMorgan launched there in 1921, with a footprint that now includes cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.
Bank of America offers corporate banking services in China, including a platform for trade finance.
Luetkemeyer also asked the executives to condemn alleged human rights violations by China’s ruling Communist Party.
“Condemn is a very strong word,” said Fraser. “We certainly are very distressed to see it going on, and we do not want to have human rights abuses happening anywhere in the world.”
Later, the CEOs were asked by another lawmaker, Representative Lance Gooden from Texas, if they “support a free and democratic Taiwan.”
Moynihan said “yes,” while Fraser was not called on to specifically answer that question.
“I support freedom and democracy everywhere. I’m not going to specifically comment on Taiwan — that’s up to the United States government to make that kind of statement,” said Dimon.