11.20.09

We are Chinese. Love Us, and Make Us Powerful

Posted in Economy, Laowai, Manners, Politics, Religion, USA at 14:10 by

fletch-afro

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.

Bonus link 2: There’s a tiny link on the Global Times article for True Xinjiang, which appears to be ssimilar in concept to the entertaining China Tibet Information Center and ChinaTaiwan.org.

09.17.09

Chinese Jeans Anger Iran

Posted in Awesome, Politics, Religion at 16:50 by

Jeans

The Guardian reports on a Chinese clothing company that has angered Iranians by creating a line of jeans bearing the Islamic expression “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful”.

A Chinese clothing manufacturer probably thought it was on to a winner by exporting jeans bearing the Islamic expression “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful” to Iran. But an otherwise sound marketing ploy was undone by one embarrassing flaw: the phrase (Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim in Arabic), which graces each of the Qur’an’s 114 chapters, was prominently displayed on the pockets of the jeans’ backsides, something likely to be seen as disrespectful by devout Muslims.

The Guardian is quoting Asriran.com who is accusing China of “attacking Iranian Muslim sacred symbols in the most offensive manner”. Also, the importers of the Jeans have been arrested.

07.06.08

Israel’s Kaifeng Jews

Posted in Religion at 10:10 by

Kaifeng Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

An interesting article by Haaretz describes one of Israel’s smallest Jewish communities, that of the Kaifeng Jews, numbering just 10 souls:

Jin, 22, and Wang, 21, arrived in Israel at the beginning of 2006, together with two other friends from Kaifeng on tourist visas. They received temporary resident status after they begun conversion studies and received citizenship after undergoing a conversion ceremony in a rabbinical court. Wang explains that as children their parents and grandparents “told us we are Jews and that one day we’d return to our land.” Jin Jin boasts, “We have a family burial plot that goes back dozens of generations, and we have genealogy books showing our connection with earlier generations of Jews.” 

The town’s Jews reconnected with mainstream Jewry thanks to visits by Jewish tourists, who brought learning materials and religious objects to local Jews. Jin’s uncle Shlomo Jin went to the Israeli embassy in Beijing eight years ago seeking to immigrate to Israel. Embassy officials didn’t want to hear about it, so he eventually came to Israel with his family via a European country. Shavei Israel, an organization which reaches out to lost Jewish communities, helped community members get accepted into a conversion program.

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06.12.08

Fundamentalism in China

Posted in Chinese Nationalism, Politics, Religion at 18:18 by

I subscribe to daily news alerts from MEMRI – the Middle East Media Research Institute, and an email I got a few days ago was about Islamic fundamentalism in Xinjiang. I’ll let you read the original article on their website, as it is filled with several terms that can get our site blocked.

NATOR ADDS: Check out The Opposite End of China for excellent coverage of Xinjiang.

03.30.08

Jewish Tombstones in Haerbin

Posted in Religion at 16:59 by

harbin-may-2005-139.jpg

Back in 2005 I went up to Haerbin on China’s May vacation. Haerbin once had a prosporous Jewish community, with two Synagogues and a Jewish school. The Synagogues are still standing but remain closed to the public and the old Jewish school is now a Korean girl school. Dr. Irena Vladimirsky writes a fascinating article on the history of Judaism in Haerbin (if you are surfing from China try this link).

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