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.


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  1. Very ironic. says:

    Very inscrutable, those Chinese.

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  2. Ian Kemmish says:

    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?

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  3. Eric M. Jones says:

    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….

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  4. Ari says:

    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…

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  5. Max says:

    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”.

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  6. jonathan says:

    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.

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  7. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    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.

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  8. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    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.

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