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Why Are Young Chinese Fascinated By Jews & The State Of Israel?

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On a humid summer day, I met young Chinese men wrangling for a selfie in front of the memorial wall at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. When I asked why they had come to the museum, they said they were aspiring entrepreneurs, and they had come to learn how to be like the Jews.

“Jews are rich and good at business,” one said.

“And very clever,” the other added.

I told them I was Jewish.

“Jews are great!” said the first. “But you don’t look Jewish.”

“What do Jews look like?” I asked.

“They wear suits and hats and have big beards.”

I pulled up a picture of a Hasidic Jew on my phone.

“Yes, like that,” one said.

As it turns out, Jews have become something of an obsession over the past two decades in China. Stores carry how-to books teaching the business secrets of the Talmud, classes in Shanghai claim to provide a Jewish education, and chatty taxi drivers make the money gesture when they find out their fare is Jewish. In 2014, Chinese recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao made headlines by publicly announcing his ambitions to buy the New York Times. In a TV interview, Chen claimed he would make an ideal newspaper magnate, saying, “I am very good at working with Jews.”

For Jews in China, the adulation is both lucrative and unsettling. A number of Israeli immigrants have built businesses off selling “Jewishness” to a society keenly interested in wealth and business success. But a token status is always precarious, and members of the Jewish community feel that tension too.

“I know the Chinese think they love Jews,” says James Ross, a professor of journalism at Northeastern University and editor of The Image of Jews in Contemporary China. “But a lot of the things they say are misleading stereotypes.”

Though China is home to a small native Jewish population, for most Chinese, Jews are an oddity. The modern Chinese term for “Jew,” youtai, was assigned to Jews in the early 19th century in Protestant missionary translations of the Christian bible. Before it was applied to Jews, youtai was often used to describe a person who is devious or suspicious. In the second half of the 20th century, the Chinese communist government supported Palestine and considered Jews and Israelis to be imperial enemies.

The only other context most Chinese had for Jews was literature. “The first thing I knew about Jewish people was through reading Shakespeare,” says Xun Zhou, a professor of modern history at the University of Essex and the author of Chinese Perceptions of the ‘Jews’ and Judaism: A History of the Youtai. Growing up in Chengdu in the 1980s, Xun had never met a Jewish person. “Shylock the Jew was the image I had,” he says.

In the early 1990s, China opened itself to the free market, and the attitude toward Jews shifted. “When China began embracing neoliberalism and advocating entrepreneurship, the ‘smart Jew’ who was successful at business became a useful model,” Xun says. “With neoliberalism, being smart, successful, and rich like the Jews became desirable for ordinary people on the streets.”

Stores carry how-to books teaching the business secrets of the Talmud, classes in Shanghai claim to provide a Jewish education, and chatty taxi drivers make the money gesture when they find out their fare is Jewish.

“Jewish” became popular shorthand for wealth, education, and business acumen, and Chinese businessmen saw an opportunity to grow a market-based in teaching “Jewishness.” James Ross says titles like The Secret of the Talmud: The Jewish Code of Wealth by Jiao Yiyang, Secret of Jewish Success: 10 Commandments of Jewish Success by Li Huizhen, and 101 Business Secrets in Jews’ Notebook by Zhu Xin Yue all claim to have unlocked the Jewish secrets to success. (Myths about moneymaking power of the Jews isn’t limited to China; South Korea shares a similar obsession.)

Of all the Chinese authors offering access to Jewish secrets, no one is more prolific than He Xiongfei. In 1995, He launched a series called Revelations on the Jews’ Superior Intelligence, claimed to be the first popular literature published on the subject. He lists historical icons like Marx, Freud, and Einstein as Jewish success stories, but he also includes definite non-Jews like Beethoven in his index of Jewish people. In The Spirit of Jewish Culture, He Xiongfei writes that Jews “are the most intelligent, mysterious, and the wealthiest people in the world. In a sense, not knowing about Jews equals not knowing the world! When Jews sneeze at home, all the banks in the world would catch a cold one by one.”

(Attempts to contact He were unsuccessful. Links to his publisher’s contact pages were dead, and emails were returned to sender. Even Ross told me that he’s never been able get a hold of him and doesn’t know if He really exists or whether he’s a single author or a group of writers.)

“Since most Chinese don’t get to see observant Jews, or even secular Jews, they don’t really know much about them,” Ross says. “Same goes for these Chinese authors.” Ross believes the Chinese use the success of Jews in the business world and in winning Nobel Prizes to promote the values Chinese culture holds in high regard — hard work, education, and, most important, getting rich. To Xun, readers’ interest in this kind of popular literature goes beyond Jews. “To the Chinese, Jews are a distant mirror,” Xun says. “It has nothing to do with reality. It’s really about the Chinese self-image.” To be Jewish, then, is simply to be a model Chinese citizen.

Some Jewish immigrants in China are also capitalizing on the country’s Semite obsession. Meirav Shacked, originally from Tel Aviv, is a co-founder of BetterMe, a parent education platform that teaches “Jewish family education” to Chinese couples and claims that “Israeli parents educate their children using known methods, while family education in China is a new thing.”

He Xiongfei writes that Jews “are the most intelligent, mysterious, and the wealthiest people in the world. In a sense, not knowing about Jews equals not knowing the world!”

Shacked’s education program provides workshops and lectures and uses what she calls a Jewish-Israeli method. “Jewish tradition and religion bring a lot of things into our education,” she says. “The questions we ask in Passover and Yom Kippur, the emphasis on communication, these are all kinds of things that influence our education.” Chinese education, according to Shacked, is bogged down with stress and anxiety, whereas a Jewish-Israeli education focuses on emotional intelligence and creativity.

BetterMe has 18 employees — all of them native Israelis — and has openly marketed itself as a Jewish education platform. “Jewish is something that is good in the mind of China because we are smart—and I’m just saying the things that they say—because we know how to make money,” Shacked says. Tracy Pinshow Navov, a clinical psychologist who is a consultant and lecturer for BetterMe, says, “[The Chinese] look at Israel and what we’ve built as this successful startup nation, and they want to do that too.”

I love telling people here I’m Jewish,” says Joni Bessler, sipping coffee between bites of pastry at a French-themed café in Shanghai’s Hunan neighbourhood. “It’s such a positive experience. I’d never do that in America.” Bessler moved to Shanghai nine years ago and found a vibrant Jewish emigré community — she is one of an estimated 3,000 Jews currently living in the country. Each of her three sons was bar mitzvahed in China. In the near-decade she’s been here, Bessler says the community has grown significantly. Ultimately, she feels safe in China.

But Hannah Frishburg, the community programs manager of Kehilat Shanghai, a progressive Jewish organization, says glowing Chinese myths about Jews can all too easily be flipped on their heads. Speaking over lunch at Boom Boom Bagels in Xuhui, a westernized neighbourhood in Shanghai, Frishburg adds that the myths can also be dead wrong. “I’ll tell them, ‘No, not every Jewish person is smart — I know a lot of stupid ones.’”

Back in Chicago, Ross echoes that sentiment. “What seems to be philo-Semitism now could easily be turned in anti-Semitism in the future,” he tells me over the phone. Ross says he sees a lot of “nasty stuff” about Jews on Weibo, China’s microblogging website.

There’s also rising concern around breaking China’s anti-religion laws. China still does not allow the practice, observance, or proselytizing of any religion, and the government doesn’t recognize Judaism as one of the five official religions (Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, Protestantism, and Catholicism). BetterMe’s Shacked recently gave a lecture to more than 500 people that was posted to Tencent, China’s version of YouTube. “They took off all the parts where I talked about Judaism,” she says. The company is now considering shedding some of its Jewish branding. Otherwise, Shacked says, “They can shut me down, just like that, after all the work I did.”

“What seems to be philo-Semitism now could easily be turned in anti-Semitism in the future,”

Rabbi Shlomo Greenberg, the first rabbi to return to China since 1949, runs a Chabad center in Shanghai and has a more cynical take on China’s infatuation with Jews and the business that make money from Jewish culture. “It’s upsetting to me because they’re not selling Judaism,” he says. “They are selling them a bunch of nonsense collected from a bunch of different western cultural ideas and wrapping it up because [in Israeli accent] I’m Israeli. Then they think, ‘I paid $1,000 for this? I got stupid nonsense! Gibberish!’”

Greenberg is concerned that eventually, the Chinese will resent the commodification of “Jewishness” when they realize it’s nothing more than a marketing scheme. “Do not confuse love for admiration,” he says. “Chinese people admire the Jewish people for their achievements, for their ability to survive 2,000 years in the diaspora, to build such a strong state economy in a very rough neighbourhood. [But] do they love us? Are they going to sacrifice something of themselves for us? No. Some people misunderstand that. There’s no love here.”

By: Isaac Eger

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Americas

Despite Chest Thumping, India Could Take Years To Reduce Economic Dependence On China – US Experts

Bilateral trade between India and China was estimated at $88 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, but India recorded a massive $53.5 billion deficit with China — the biggest trade deficit India has with any nation.

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Anti-China sentiments in India are at an all-time high. Recently India banned 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, while Chinese firms are being obstructed from participating in highway and other major tenders and projects. 

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The Indian hotel industry group also issued a blanket ban on Chinese tourists. “In view of the nefarious activities of China, it has been decided that no Chinese will be accommodated in Delhi’s hotels and guest houses from now onwards,” the Delhi Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association said in a statement in late June.

Reports suggest that goods from China are being delayed at Indian ports, and the Indian government are planning to impose higher tariffs and rigorous quality controls on shipments.

“Trade frictions, even symbolic ones, are obviously bad for business,” Pravin Krishna, professor of International Economics and Business at Johns Hopkins University, told DW. “As of now, it is not quite clear which goods are being held up at the ports and what the extent of the delay is.

The exact impact on businesses will clearly depend on their inventory positions and so on and this will vary quite widely across sectors and firms,” he said. “I imagine most businesses can manage delays, but perhaps not complete blockades.”

Bilateral trade between India and China was estimated at $88 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, but India recorded a massive $53.5 billion deficit with China — the biggest trade deficit India has with any nation.

China is also India’s biggest source of imports and exports more than 3,000 products to India at very competitive prices. Moreover, India has become a major destination for Chinese investment with key Indian startups like Zomato, Paytm having received millions of dollars’ worth of funding from China.

The total planned and current Chinese investments in India are estimated to be about $26 billion, according to the US think tank Brookings. Experts say – there is no easy pathway for India to reduce its current dependence on China and decoupling from China will be a slow, gradual process.

Observers believe that a trade conflict will likely be costly for both sides, especially given the timing of the current tensions. Both India and China have already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created massive challenges for both the governments.

Their economies are undergoing a sharp devaluation. In India’s case, the rigorous lockdown has resulted in severe economic losses and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now expects India’s GDP to shrink 4.5% this year.

To counter the economic collapse, Indian PM Narendra Modi launched “Atmanirbhar Bharat,” a campaign for a self-reliant India that aids businesses to make products in the country instead of relying on imports. This is in addition to the “Make in India” initiative.

Sumit Ganguly, professor of Political Science at the Indiana University Bloomington told DW – “Frankly, I think it amounts to foolish, anachronistic and pointless sloganeering,” adding that this is a “populist cry” and “will amount to little or nothing.” “The initial emphasis on self-reliance was coupled with rampant protectionism and had terrible consequences for Indian industry not to mention the hapless consumer,” he argued.

After India gained independence, import substitution industrialization, a policy centring on displacing imported goods with domestically produced ones, was the guiding principle of economic experts in the country.

Successive Indian governments from 1947 to 1991 followed this inward-looking model of economic development, but it chained private organizations and eventually proved disastrous in turning India into an industrial and economic power.

As a balance of payments crisis in 1991 pushed New Delhi on the verge of bankruptcy and the Indian government was compelled to introduce significant reforms and liberalize the economy.

If ‘self-reliance’ is merely an appeal to organizations to become more resourceful — that is fine,” Krishna said. On the other hand, if it is an appeal for import substitution, I would be worried: India’s experience with this in the past has been calamitous.

“Regarding the dispute with China, I sincerely hope it is not used as a pretext for a generalized return to protectionism.”

Via: DW May Not Reflect The Views Of The EurAsian Times

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Asia Pacific

Ladakh Now, Kashmir Next: Why India-China War Is An Attractive Option For Many In India?

I now believe that a big event is needed for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, and the India-China war could be that big thing – J&K resident 

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As India-China border standoff continues in Ladakh, people living in the Kashmir Valley see war as an attractive option. Kashmiris living in Jammu and Kashmir are rejoicing at the prospect of a war between India and China and expect something positive from the border clashes.  

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Kashmiris have taken to social media to share computer-generated images sarcastically reminding India about its inability to halt Chinese aggression. The pictures shared in Kashmir are completely in contrast to the anti-China images being shared in other parts of India.

Images shared include Chinese President Xi Jinping wearing a traditional Kashmiri garb preparing a traditional wazwan meal while another image shows Xi’s face superimposed over a local bus driver who is calling out to commuters that the bus is headed to Ladakh – the place where Indian and Chinese troops clashed.

Apart from the trolling on social media platforms, Kashmiris are also discussing the possibility of Chinese military occupying the disputed region. “Ladakh Kheow Chenan (Ladakh has been taken over by China)” is the most discussed topic these days. During a demonstration on June 21 in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir’s largest city, protesters mocked the police by chanting “Cheen aya Cheen aya (China is coming)” slogans.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, discontent and gloom amongst Kashmiris have been on the rise since the abrogation of Article 370. The scrapping of Article 370 took away the special status enjoyed by the Kashmir and divided the state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Most importantly, the abrogation of Article 370 by PM Narendra Modi led Indian government quashed the possibility of an independent Kashmir, a dream envisaged by many Kashmiris.

Following the historic decision, Kashmiris living in the union territory have complained about increased military presence, detention of people on arbitrary grounds and, lack of internet services and lockdowns.

Speaking to Nikkei Asian Review, Waqas Ahmad from Srinagar said that abrogation of Article 370 was the last nail in the coffin and it broke the back of every Kashmiri and the fear of settlement of outsiders seems a reality to all Kashmiris.

So far, the Indian government has granted 25,000 domicile certificates to non-locals which allows them to get a residency certificate for education, employment and buying land.

For Kashmiris, China Brings Hope

While Chinese aggression has been condemned by Indians across the length and breadth of the country, Kashmiris have endorsed China’s aggressive move. For them, the introduction of China spells ‘hope’.

Younis Ali, a political science student in Pulwama, explains the logic behind supporting the Chinese. He says that Kashmiris have tried everything to forward their cause including peaceful protests and militancy, but neither has yielded any results.

”I now believe that a big event is needed for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, and the India-China war could be that big thing,” Ali says.

Specialists on Kashmir also agree with what locals say. Gowhar Geelani, an experienced journalist Kashmir, says that people are of the view that a new geopolitical situation could be to their advantage in terms of ending the political uncertainty in Kashmir. He also noted that Pakistan’s weak economy and military “has also led some to pin their hopes on a stronger China.”

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, explains that Kashmiri joy stems from seeing their oppressor bogged down by an emboldened, aspiring superpower that is a bitter rival of New Delhi and a close friend of Islamabad.

Speaking about human rights violation in the region, Ashok Swain a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, says that Kashmiris are excited about the Ladakh clash because of the perception that China has become a party to the Kashmir conflict, after experiencing hopelessness and despair with “the near silence of the international community over serious human rights violation.

According to a report on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir that covers the first six months of this year, at least 229 killings in different instances of violence have taken place in the region.

The report cites “extrajudicial executions of at least 32 civilians in J&K, besides killings of 143 militants and 54 armed forces personnel.” It was put out by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent human rights group.

Swain adds that with the introduction of China into the Kashmir conflict, India has lost the military and diplomatic advantage it enjoyed over Pakistan.  China’s open opposition Article 370 as well as the strength it showed in the border clash have revived the hope of Kashmiris of an open alliance between Pakistan and China on the Kashmir issue.

At present, New Delhi and Beijing are looking for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ladakh. Today PM Narendra Modi flew to Leh, Ladakh to take stock of the situation, boost the morale of troops and send a covert message to Beijing.

China was quick to announce its displeasure over Modi’s surprise visit to Ladakh and warned Indian from taking any action that may escalate the situation.

New Delhi and Beijing have been at each other’s throats since the first week of June. Both countries have engaged in the rapid military infrastructure development, troop buildup, air patrols, weapon deployment and even fistfights, which ended with casualties on both sides.

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EurAsian Region

China On Its Side, Pakistan Going All Out To Woo Russia; Counter India-US Alliance

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Pakistan Foreign Minister SM Qureshi in conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov expressed Islamabad’s desire to have a long and multidimensional relationship with Moscow. Can the growing closeness between Pakistan and Russia change the political and diplomatic relationship between New Delhi and Moscow?

Chinese Media Accuses The US Of ‘Hoping To See A War’ Between China And India or Japan

The Russians are seeking the development of ties with Pakistan to limit the US influence in Asia,” wrote Farzad Bonesh, a researcher and analyst of international affairs. “But it should be noted that one of the most important goals of Russia’s foreign policy is to increase its international influence and advance its economic growth,” he added.

In recent years, the United States has had stronger ties with India than with Pakistan. With Washington’s strong stance against Islamabad’s inadequate response to the allegations of sheltering terrorists have led to weakened ties between the two nations.

“Pakistan is trying to use Russia to balance its foreign policies regarding India and the United States,” stated Bonesh. He further wrote that Pakistan is also trying to use its connections with Russia to gain advantages over the US by considering the regional and international confrontations and rivalries.

Russia and Pakistan plan to enhance their economic trade which was mere $800 million in 2018 but is expected to grow in the future. “So far, the two countries have been simplifying procedures and encouraging trade by establishing an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation,” observed Bonesh.

He further wrote that unlike the trade relations between Russia and India, which amount to $10 billion a year, the volume of trade is inconsistent with its real potential. “In fact, the current volume of trade between the two countries compared with the overall volume of Russia’s foreign trade is very small,” stated the author.

Till 2014, Russia had a policy of not supplying any weapons to Pakistan. According to the author, the continued cooperation between the US and India in a series of important agreements in the field of defence has resulted in Russia and Pakistan going forward with more defence cooperation and weapons trade.

Pakistan has shown support for Russia’s “intention to cooperate” with the Taliban. Bonesh believes that the security interests of Russia and Pakistan are also influenced by the security and political stability of Afghanistan.

“A significant number of ISIS forces moved to Syria from Russia’s Muslim republics and some of them have further moved from Syria into areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan”

The reason between the closeness between Russia and Pakistan can be due to “limiting the US’s influence”. However, the author believes that the cooperation and relations between Russia and Pakistan cannot create the conditions and basis for a strategic, lasting and interdependent alliance in the fields of security, politics and strategy, because, for Russia, India is still an important country in South Asia. Thus, Moscow is taking careful steps with Islamabad to continue having healthy relations with India.

He concluded with explaining Moscow’s concern that the expansion of its relations with Islamabad will force India to move closer to the United States. “India’s market is larger than Pakistan’s. The arms trade between India and Russia still has great potential, while the deals signed between Moscow and Islamabad so far have not been very important,” he concludes.

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