Thursday, December 30, 2010

How the Chinese See Jews

Newsweek has an interesting article about Chinese views of Jews. Chinese business writers and consultants (who personally may have never met a Jew) have been recommending Jews as business gurus and models, and especially writing about the Talmud as how-to-succeed in business manual. "The guides are like the Chinese equivalents of books such as Sun Tzu and the Art of Business."

The historic background to this trend is summarized in the article:
The Chinese perception of Jews as expert moneymakers does not have the religion-based antagonism that often accompanies the same stereotype elsewhere in the world, and probably had its start in the mid-19th century, when investors began flocking to China. Many of the first foreign real-estate tycoons, such as Silas Hardoon and the scions of the Sassoon family, were Jewish. Michael Kadoorie—who hails from a wealthy Jewish family that dates its China connection back to 19th-century Shanghai, and who’s made his fortune in power generators and hotels—currently ranks as the richest non-Chinese in greater China, with an estimated net worth of $5 billion.

The admiration for Judaism stems from a history that goes beyond business. About half of the dozen or so Westerners active in Mao Zedong’s China were Jewish, and that also led to increased interest in Jewish culture among Chinese intellectuals, says Xu Xin, professor of Jewish studies at Nanjing University. That’s resulted in mostly glowing portrayals of certain Jewish individuals in the official Chinese press.
The article suggests that Chinese views of Jews is mainly not as harmful as similar stereotyping in European history. I wonder.

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