ODB just passed along a great interview from the new English language edition of China’s Global Times newspaper. GT’s Lu Jingxian talks with Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress and American Council for World Jewry. (It’s unclear whether or not Mr. Rosen is related to the well-known Dr. Rosen in Los Angeles.)
The tone of the interview reminds me of countless conversations I have had on politics here in China. The Chinese interviewer gets right to the point with a blunt statement and question:
American Jews are known for their formidable lobbying power in the US. How is this accomplished?
I get in a Beijing taxi and tell the driver my destination. He puts the car in gear and looks at me in the rearview mirror as the car starts to move. “Which country are you from?”
“The United States.”
“You Americans love to start wars!”
GT: The AJC is a powerful political group in the US. China is also learning to build more lobbying power there. What stage are Chinese currently at? What are your suggestions?
Rosen: The primary objective of the Jewish lobby has been in keeping US values.
If you go back 40 years, the Jewish lobby was lobbying on behalf of individual rights and civil rights. And they did it for African Americans, they did it for Latin Americans, and they did it for Chinese.
Working hard for the rights of individuals is a core US value. The Jewish lobby gained that influence by lobbying on behalf of issues that 90 percent of Americans would agree with.
Then there is the issue of Israel. Why are Jewish groups so successful in lobbying for Israel? Again the American public is very supportive of the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country in the Middle East that gives equal rights and freedom to everyone. Woman have equal rights in Israel.
So it’s easy to lobby for Israel, because 90 percent of Americans believe in what you are lobbying for….
That sounds about right.
If you ask if the Chinese community has a strong lobby, I don’t believe so, because they don’t lobby for those kinds of issues. What do they lobby for? “Love us Chinese?” It’s a nice idea, but it has no substance.
We don’t say, “We are Jews, love us, and make us powerful.” We have specific issue that we fight for. And the result is we become the leadership. We are very active in government in very high positions.
Usually it’s someone over 40. I can tell at the beginning of the conversation if the question is coming or not. I can feel how bad he wants to ask it, but he doesn’t seem sure how to put it. “So….do you like China?”
A thousand thoughts pass through my mind from the last fifteen years of study, life, work, travel, and thought about China. This question will take another fifteen years to answer properly. I suspect my face is betraying panic and confusion and try to maintain a casual expression. I take the easy way out. “Ummm…Yes? Yes, sure.”
GT: For Chinese to lobby in the US, obviously we have ideological clashes. How can Chinese remove that barrier and win the hearts and minds of American public?
Rosen: You have to understand there are differences. The US people understand you have something to offer, and they accept the differences. They disagree with you publicly sometimes, but we have to find things in common.
We do have ideological differences, but they don’t matter compared with things we cooperate on. They won’t affect Chinese investment in US and US investment in China. They won’t affect economic policies, and they won’t matter where we support each other over issues of concern.
They will matter if there is an issue. Regarding Sudan, Americans care about humanitarian issues. You need to take the time, make the effort, and get the American people to understand you.
China’s position on Sudan aside, Rosen has a point. A couple of recent Global Times articles (one from September 30 and one from November 10) on Sino-Sudanese relations rely almost solely on official (and generally positive) Sudanese government statements; comments from the Chinese side, whether from the government or the reporter, are conspicuous in their absence.
GT: Inside the US, what is the general attitude of the Jewish population toward China?
Rosen: It’s a positive one. We know China has no anti-Semitism. We are always thankful of Chinese people for that and for those Chinese who saved Jews in World War II.
No anti-Semitism? Not so sure about that. At the very least there’s a tortured mix of admiration and envy — a less negative version of common Chinese attitudes toward the US and Japan.
GT: Last year, several Jewish groups in the US called for boycotting the Beijing Olympics. How should we see this?
Rosen: They probably didn’t call for boycotting Beijing Olympics because of Jewish issues, but for some other issues….
The Jewish community tends to be very liberal and they may disagree with certain issues in your country or countries you support. American people and some in the world oppose that, and some of them are Jewish.
The taxi driver again: “Why are you wearing that uniform?”
“I’m going to play soccer.”
“But you’re American!”
(neither of us knows what to say next)
GT: There are some Jewish politicians in the US who take a strong stance against China. What’s their influence on US policy toward China?
Rosen: The fact that they are Jewish is not relevant. They are politicians, American politicians, and they represent Americans. They may happen to be Jewish, and they may disagree with some Chinese issues, but connecting the two is not correct…
At this point the reporter seems to be trying hard to restrain himself from shouting, “Why don’t you Jews love us Chinese?!?”
GT: Chinese companies may meet local resistance when they try to expand in the US market. How should they work to avoid that?
I don’t think Chinese companies are particularly anticipating these problems, working through them, and doing the right public relations campaigns.
Rosen: I don’t think Chinese companies have problems in the US. Some Chinese companies have problems entering into the US market. It depends on the industrial sector they operate in. Chinese entrepreneurs are quite welcome in the US and they shouldn’t be fearful of that.
But on some sensitive business, China has to be thoughtful of what the reaction would be. They have to anticipate the reaction and work to limit the damage of that reaction.
Chinese business can’t just parachute into America. They have to anticipate the problems involved. The technology sector is probably problematic.
That’s good advice for both sides.
Bonus link 1: Here’s a “foreign view” published in the Global Times in August that discusses the lingering stereotype of the Wealthy Jew in China.