Charlie Munger downplays risk of Taiwan invasion, says crypto fans are ‘idiots’

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Charlie Munger, the longtime business partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway Inc, on Wednesday said China remains a top opportunity for investors despite geopolitical risks.

Munger also doubled down on his recent Wall Street Journal editorial calling for the U.S. government to follow China and ban cryptocurrency, saying “people who oppose my position are idiots.”

The 99-year-old spoke while fielding 2-1/4 hours of questions at the annual meeting of Daily Journal Corp, a Los Angeles newspaper publisher and provider of software to courthouses that he chaired for 45 years and where he remains a director.

He is better known for his work at Berkshire, where he has since 1978 been a vice chairman and close collaborator with fellow billionaire Buffett, who is 92.

Munger has long been bullish on China, though Berkshire has recently reduced multibillion-dollar stakes in two companies in that region, electric car maker BYD Co and chipmaker TSMC, also known as Taiwan Semiconductor.

Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s nearly yearlong invasion of Ukraine, Munger downplayed concern that China might invade Taiwan.

“The Chinese leader is a very smart, practical person,” Munger said. “Russia went into Ukraine as it looked like a cakewalk. I don’t think Taiwan looks like such a cakewalk any more.”

Munger said that helps investors’ prospects in China, because “you can buy better, stronger companies at cheaper valuations in China than you can in the United States.”

He said BYD has been raising prices while Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc has been lowering them, leaving BYD “so much ahead of Tesla in China, it’s almost ridiculous.”

Munger also called TSMC the “strongest semiconductor company on earth,” though Berkshire recently cut its formerly $4.1 billion stake by 86%.

His comments about cryptocurrency follow the failures over the last year of several prominent businesses in that industry.

“I’m ashamed of my country that so many people believe in this kind of crap, and that the government allows it to exist,” Munger said. “It is totally, absolutely, crazy, stupid gambling.”

CNBC broadcast the Daily Journal meeting online.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Diane Craft)