Sunday, August 30, 2009

If You Want To Do Business, You Must Study the Jews

While waiting for my friend, Steve's delayed flight from America at the airport, I decided to pass the time by browsing the airport bookstore. While parsing through the books in the business section, a certain title struck my eye. It read "做生意要学犹太人", or roughly translated into English as "If You Want To Do Business, You Must Study the Jews".

After regaining composure, I opened the book to the first page. Above a hilariously cliche cartoon drawing of gold, jewels, and pearls that the Jew has accumulated through his conniving, is the headline: "The ethic group best at making money in the entire world: The Jews". You can imagine what the book continues to elaborate on.

As if it couldn't get any better, as Steve and I were waiting in another airport for yet another delayed flight, we checked out the bookstore in another city's airport. To my somewhat disbelief, we found yet another book on the same exact subject, titled "The Way of Making Money From the Jewish". Fool me're not going to fool me again, so for the best $3 I've spent in a while, I picked it up and began to read as fast as my still-awful Chinese would allow.

While hilarious, I can't say the book was entirely shocking. Chinese people are crazy about Jews. They love 'em. Mention you're an American, and you get smiles and looks of approval or respect. Mention you're an American Jew, and they are no longer worthy of standing in your presence. "The Jews are very good people. Very clever. Very good at making money!", they say.

It makes enough sense why the Chinese have such a high regard for Jews. They're similar in many ways. Both ethnic groups have a very long history deeply steeped in tradition, both have been through some pretty rough times throughout history - particularly in the 20th century, both are rather clever, and above all - highly concerned with and quite adept at making money.

The funny thing is that no Chinese that I've met have heard of any of the negative stereotypes about Jews - or any other stereotypes about Jews besides that they're adept at making money for that matter. When I tell them that they're sometimes accused of being regarded as greedy, or that they own a disproportionate amount of the world's wealth, that they dominate Hollywood, or even that they're supposed to be stereotypically funny, witty, or have awful rhythm, I'm met with empty faces. How did this happen? Where do the Chinese get their ideas about Jewish people? Is there a single source for these opinions? How is it that China seems to be the one country in the world where anti-semitism completely failed to take hold?

Anyone who has insight or thoughts on this, please drop a line in the comments. I'm quite curious.


Chris said...

Could be similarities between their national past:

Or it could be because Jews love Chinese food, even chicken toes :)

Jess said...

So, a couple years late to this blog! But just a few notes~

King Rama VI of Thailand (in)famously, and disparagingly, referred to Chinese people as "Jews of the East". In Southeast Asia, almost every Jewish stereotype is applied to the Chinese minority instead (except for the pork thing, which is reversed). Chinese in the Philippines and Indonesia make up about 2-3% of the population, yet control about 70-80% of the wealth. Almost all the billionaires in Southeast Asia are Chinese. And ethnic Chinese are also overrepresented in the entertainment industries of Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. Actors and other celebrities are often Chinese/Caucasian mixed.

Cultural and national experience probably relates, too. Many of the negative stereotypical Jewish traits are seen as positives. Controlling the world's economy with a population of less than 20 million? That's an achievement! Why would you dislike someone for being successful? Noticeably, Jewish success has not usually come at the expense of Chinese, so there's little need for resentment. (Conversely, the entire world loves Japan...except for China and Korea.) And you know how much Chinese people love the Ivy League.

In colonial Shanghai, the substantial Jewish population was noted for treating the locals better than did the other foreigners. Most Jews there were refugees themselves. And there are also the Kaifeng Jews in China, who have been in the country for almost 900 years.

If you read a lot of these "How To Get Rich Like A Jew" books, though, you'll see that...a lot of aren't all that well researched. Many of them cite Bill Gates as being Jewish...

Oh, it bad to say "Jew"? > <
Or do I have to say "Jewish person" like the priest guy on Seinfeld?