A Very Interesting Paragraph From …


Jewish visitors to China often receive a snap greeting when they reveal their religion: “Very smart, very clever, and very good at business,” the Chinese person says. Last year’s Google Zeitgeist China rankings listed “why are Jews excellent?” in fourth place in the “why” questions category, just behind “why should I enter the party” and above “why should I get married?” (Google didn’t publish a “why” category in Mandarin this year.) And the apparent affection for Jewishness has led to a surprising trend in publishing over the last few years: books purporting to reveal the business secrets of the Talmud that capitalize on the widespread impression among Chinese that attributes of Judaism lead to success in the financial arts.

Very ironic.

Very inscrutable, those Chinese.

Ian Kemmish

In the absence of any other data, each of those questions might well have been asked by as few as a dozen or so people. How often is often? Visitors to which parts of China? How many visitors did he actually bother to survey? Does the "journalist" who wrote that have an interest in plugging that book?

Eric M. Jones

As the Chinese Rabbi said to the Jewish business man who found himself in Hong Kong temple during the Jewish high holy days...."That's funny, you don't look Jewish." Ba dum...

As for, "Why are Jews [often] excellent?", it would be great to see what the responses were. But in my gentile experience--being Jewish ties together disparate peoples with some common cultural values, which for the most part; are appreciative of science, philosophy, and the arts.

I think business and finance came about almost accidentally. There is no (or very little) part of the religion specifically aimed at being clever in making deals.

Still, much of the business infrastructure; lawyers, bankers, and a scattering of other Jews in such fields in far-flung places, makes business somewhat easier.

Basically a smart Jewish kid is supported, appreciate and encouraged to persevere. Not always so in Gentileville, where being smart can hurt your chances at social acceptance.

But what do I know....



After my first semester of intensive Mandarin at Michigan in '95 I was on a plane back home to Philly sitting next to a newly arrived Chinese grad student. After introducing myself in Mandarin, the conversation proceeded as follows.

Grad Student: Ni shi bu shi you tai ren?
Are you Jewish?

Me: Dui a. Ni ba you tai ren shen mo zhi dao?
That's right. What do you know about Jewish people?

Grad Student: Bu yao chi zhu rou, hen you qian!
Can't eat pork, have lot's of money.

Me: (looking down at my empty wallet) Di yi ge shi, shi dui.
The first part was right...


I don't know about Google Zeitgeist, but when I enter "why are Jews" in google.cn (which forwards to google.com.hk), the top three autocomplete results are "greedy", "so rich", and "hated".
The top three results for "why are Chinese" are "exports not so special", "people racist", and "so smart".
For some reason, there's no autocomplete for "why are Muslims".


Three actual, non-prejudicial reasons for the business imagery:

1. As commonly known, Christian lending was stunted for centuries by the Church. Not only did Jews fill some of the banking need but they were actually forced into the role in some locales.

2. Jews maintained history, meaning they kept the accounting principles developed in ancient Rome. The Christian prohibitions against accounting were numerous and even included bans against writing numbers as numbers, instead requiring they be written out as words. These prohibitions didn't stop Christian businessmen but the laws were on the books, including in mercantile Florence. The "secret knowledge" of the Jews may have been double entry bookkeeping.

3. Jews have a long history of peddling. Take the USA. Jews from Germany and parts east would come to this country in the 19th C and be outfitted by Jewish merchants for the road. Picking up English as they went, these guys walked all over the midwest and south, peddling goods to make a living, trying to save enough to bring over some of their family and to get married. Some eventually set up stores, which is why nearly every town had a Jewish department store and maybe some other Jewish merchants.


Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

All modern empires have benefited from the talents and intellect of Jews. Spain(part of the cause of The Inquisition), England( Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli), France(Dreyfes Affair), America( Kissinger,our current Supreme Court & US Senate), Soviet Union( Lenin & Trotsky), Germany(Einstein & Marx), Hollywood, and even the Indian Mogul Empire and the Arab World.

The Jews are a diaspora, and though they have not grown their own empire, have had secondary and behind the scenes roles in just about every modern world movement.

If China ascends to a world power it would be exceptional in that it has NO Jewish roots, advisers, or talent.

The Chinese similar are a diaspora starting small businesses, mom and pop stores, banks, and entrepreneur enterprises from such far flung areas as
San Francisco, Sydney, Brazil, Malaysia, South Africa and Chile.

The Chinese are fascinated by the Jews. Jews are entranced by Chinese cuisine. But like the Jews, there is an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of risk. And for good reason, the Chinese have been sometimes called the Jews of the Far East.


Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

Where do Jewish People spend Christmas?
Ans: At their local Chinese Resturant.

Like Southern cuisine, Pork is the basis of cuisine. Pork and pork lard are engrained in Chinese cuisine--even the simple vegetable dishes. That's what imbues the subtle rich flavors.

If you enjoy bacon and pork fat, but cannot comprehend the menu or language, is it still a sin? It would be but for the fact that the rabbi is sitting two booths away.


One of the apothegms of asian studies is that the southern and overseas Chinese are the Jews of the East.

The Koreans are the Irish.


Must be why china's foreign policy is stridently anti-semitic.

Eric M. Jones

@9--Cubans were considered the "Jews of the Caribbean".

The Arabs too have a long history of trading, culture, science and many similar "Jewish" characteristics, but have been somewhat stymied since the Turks crushed the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople in 1453 and Catholic Spain pushed the Moors out in 1492. It went downhill from there.


jonathan @ 7: Jews maintained history, meaning they kept the accounting principles developed in ancient Rome. The Christian prohibitions against accounting were numerous and even included bans against writing numbers as numbers, instead requiring they be written out as words.

According to Wikipedia, double-entry bookkeeping was widely used in the Islamic world from at least the 12th Century, so its use in ancient Rome and preservation by Jews throughout the Medieval period sounds suspect. By the 13th Century it was commonly used in Italy, one of its developers being a monk who used it to record tithes paid to his monastery.


The good thing about Jewish is that they know how to take use wisely their opportunity cost. Chinese also like the concept that Jewish people are also hard workers and have money. The Chinese are trying to get better and why not copy the good things from other cultures, specially the Jews? They don't lose anything by doing the same good things that these people have, it is all the opposite, they learn the good things and benefit from what they learn.


abraham goes to china orders a container of goods , 2 months later his partner isaac flies for the quality control before shipment and goes nuts '' it's not the right size, not the right color,the quality is no good!'' and cancels the order, the week after jacob comes to the factory and ask "do you have any closeouts?''


Apparently complimentary stereotypes are perfectly acceptable now?

Can we say things like "Black people sure can run fast and jump high"?

Or how about "Asians are smarter than white people"?

Wait, wait!--how about "Mexicans...."

If we will accept the "good" stereotypes, then we must take all the medicine on the spoon and accept the bad stereotypes, too. Something we should be loath to do...though, to be fair, there is likely a bit of truth in both the good and the bad stereotypes about folks.

It's just a "rule of thumb" way to identify people. It can be insulting or even a bit insightful. After all, our Jewish friends, by maintaining a significant level of "otherness" and "us-ness" have held together through thick and thin, allowing the wisdom of the generations to pass, to pass, to pass.

I suspect that some will see this post as a bit stereotypical. But if we're going to play the game, we must be prepared to sometimes lose a point here and there.



Because most of Han Chinese are racist in secret. Actually it's extremely fascinating to ask why people categorize a group of people as "distinct" at something. It's not rare to hear the stories from Han Chinese that Hui are very good at business but...canny. So is their attitude to Jew: they are clever but...canny and deserve death.

I'm Han-Hui mix, I know lots of rumors run by both folks.


Is there any group with an avg IQ above 100 that isn't clever, smart, and good at business? It ain't the Talmud. It's IQ.

Bantoo Bhayya

Indians are coming.


As a chinese (not born/lived in China), I had also been brought up with the impression that Jews are generally more intelligent than other races, have good educational principles, and are rich. Just as how Indians are supposedly really good at doing businesses (much to the frustration of many chinese).

Ultimately they are just stereotypes.. but I still believe that there are some truth in them


It's a common stereotyping by Asians, not only Chinese. All humans stereotyped people, it's a flaw but we do it subconsciously. The Jews we read about in the media are often the successful, smart and wealthy ones. From Steven Spielberg, George Soros, Sergey Brin (Google) to Mark Zukerberg (Facebook), all Jewish ancestry, how can the rest of the world not stereotype them positively?

The Chinese are generally enterpreneur in nature (like the Jews?), hardworking,emphasize education in their kids (like the Jews?), so there is a commonality that resonates with them and because of the successful stories of the Jews, they stereotype them as such.