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Spengler

Common Traits Bind Jews and Chinese

January 11th, 2014 - 5:21 pm

Common traits bind Jews and Chinese
By Spengler

(Cross-posted from Asia Times Online)

JERUSALEM – The Chinese are connoisseurs of civilization. For thousands of years they have absorbed ethnicities into their own culture, eliminating on occasion tribes that proved too troublesome. They have watched other civilizations come and go; they have seen their younger neighbors adopt parts of their culture and then try to assert their superiority, and ultimately fail. They are the last people on earth to accept the liberal Western dogma that every culture is valid within its own terms of reference, for they have seen too many civilizations fail of their own flaws.

There is no greater compliment to any culture than to be admired
by Chinese, who with some justification regard their civilization as the world’s most ancient and, in the long run, most successful. The high regard that the Chinese have for Jews should be a source of pride to the latter. In fact, it is very pleasant indeed for a Jew to spend time in China. The sad history of Jew-hatred has left scars on every European nation, but it is entirely absent in the world’s largest country. On the contrary, to the extent that Chinese people know something of the Jews, their response to us is instinctively sympathetic.

“I am always surprised by the expressions of affection that the Chinese show for the Jews. Both cultures, the Chinese emphasize, share respect for family, learning and, yes, money,” wrote the journalist Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore last year. ‘”Most Chinese will think Jews are smart, clever or good at making money, and that they have achieved a great deal,’ Professor Xu Xin, director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at Nanjing University (one of over half a dozen centers in China dedicated to studying Judaism) told me last week,” she wrote. “This logic — that the Jews are admired for their success despite their small numbers and historical oppression — has also led to a burgeoning industry of self-help books that use Jewish culture and the Talmud to preach business tips.”

Family, learning, respect for tradition, business acumen: these are Jewish traits that the Chinese also consider to be their virtues. All this is true as far as it goes. One might also mention that China never has had reason to view the Jews as competitors for legitimacy.

Christianity began as a Jewish sect and has vacillated between the claim that is has superseded Judaism and the view that it is a daughter religion that should honor its parent. Islam claims that Jews and Christians falsified the revelations given to them and that their scriptures are a perversion of God’s true message, which Mohammed restored to its original integrity. But by no stretch of the imagination could China view the Jews as a threat to the legitimacy of its civilization.

The Chinese, in short, have no reasons to dislike or fear the Jews, and a number of reasons to admire them simply because Jews display traits that Chinese admire among themselves. A Jew visiting China, though, senses an affinity with Chinese people, more than can be explained by the commonality of traits. There is a common attitude towards life, and especially toward adversity.

A Chinese friend explained it to me this way: If you suffer a setback, even if through no fault of your own, and even if through the malicious acts of malevolent people, you must not feel sorry for yourself or blame others for your troubles. It is you who must take responsibility for overcoming them. You are required to redouble your efforts and work all the harder. Perseverance in the face of adversity is something Jews understand very well. Through two millennia of exile in the West, Jews maintained an autonomous high culture while succeeding at the highest level within Western culture, often despite persecution.

Civilizations fail when they become despondent, when they lose confidence in their history and their future, when their citizens cease to feel pride in and draw inspiration from their culture. Somehow, for thousands of years, Jews and Chinese kept their confidence in their civilization and preserved it through war and foreign conquest. Surely that helps explain their present success. The confidence to redouble one’s efforts in the face of adversity, even malevolence, cannot be explained by simple stubbornness. The grit required to excel even when the game is rigged against you is not only a cultural trait, but the trait of a culture, that is, a personal characteristic that draws on a culture’s self-confidence.

It may seem odd to compare the largest of peoples with one of the world’s smallest, but Chinese and Jews have something in common that helps explain their success and longevity. That is the ability to rise above ethnic conflicts.

Tribal warfare is the bane of human society. During the 40,000 years before the dawn of civilization, some anthropologists estimate, two-fifths of males who survived infancy died in warfare. The great empires of the Near East and the West failed because they enslaved the peoples they conquered rather than integrate them. European Christianity offered a compromise: the ethnicities that occupied Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire would join a universal Church in the spirit, but keep their ethnic nature in the flesh. Ultimately the flesh overwhelmed the spirit, and ethnocentric nationalism provoked the terrible wars of the 20th century.

Chinese civilization offered a different model: it integrated innumerable ethnic minorities into a unified culture centered on a written language and literary tradition, and offered the opportunity for advancement to everyone who came under the umbrella of this culture. Unlike Rome, it did not enslave subject populations to work giant estates, but emphasized the extended family as the fundamental unit of society.

Unlike Christianity, where the unifying language of Europe (Latin) was understood by a tiny elite, Chinese culture propagated a unifying written language. Literacy in ancient China was extremely high in comparison to the ancient and medieval West, between 20% and 30% by most estimates. China still has 55 ethnic minorities and a wide variety of spoken languages. The only people with a higher literacy rate in the ancient world were the Jews, who began a program of compulsory universal education during the 1st century BCE.

What distinguishes Israel from all the other peoples of the ancient world west of the Indus River? Uniquely, the ancient Hebrews believed that their nation was defined not by ethnicity and geographic origin but rather by a code of practice given by divine mandate.

Jewish Scripture describes the founding father of the Jewish people, Abraham, as a wandering Babylonian summoned by the single Creator God to leave his homeland and come to a land–the present-day Israel–where his descendants would multiply and endure forever. The generation of his great-grandchildren migrated to Egypt, and their descendants were enslaved. God’s intervention freed the Hebrews from slavery, and gave them the Torah (“teachings”) at Mount Sinai, instructing them to conquer the future Land of Israel.

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Top Rated Comments   
Re:
"China by contrast contains fifty-five distinct ethnic minorities and numerous spoken languages within a single political system. Despite the occasional [ ....which of course has been going on for countless centuries.....] eruption of separatist tendencies, China is in little danger of reverting to a loose confederation of ethnicities.".....because of the very direct and very firm repressive policies of the solidly entrenched communist Establishment. [Engels and Marx and, I guess Lenin also, surely must be wrinkling their noses at the "communal" aspects of the Chinese economy of today.]

Goldman here is surprisingly flippant in this paean to the Chinese.....he's ignoring completely the savagery and the brutality of that infamous "Cultural Revolution"....'cultural', indeed; throughout History the Chinese have left female fetuses in the rice paddies. This continues to this day. An adjunct to this callousness is the infamous Mao inspired "one child" family policy that its advocates claim is a step towards stabilizing that Malthusian population of 1.4 billion. Where are the vasectomy figures? They're [the Chinese] world leaders in the technique, aren't they?

All in all, a very strange article by Mr Goldman.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps, yet the admiration of Jewish accomplishment which should be universal might well be contrasted with American people valuing Israel over their own government.

Could an Israeli fishing vessel wander into the high seas today and cross Chinese seizure of an invisible line? A Filipino boat cannot.

Could a Jewish traitor teach a fraudulent Chinese history to schoolchildren like a Zinn, a Chomsky, ...and be given awards and tenure?

In a Holocaust of epic proportions against Jews, would Chines give their ultimate sacrifice to save Jewish victims?

If the Chinese to Government were to favor enemies of Israel, would the people of that nation stand firmly against their own government...voting overwhelmingly in favor of Israel?

Could a Jewish man run for the Presidency or Vice Presidency of China or Jewish man or woman sit on the equivalency of their Supreme Court. Could a Jewish woman sit on such a powerful ruling court and insult their founding document?

If the UN libeled Jews and Israel repeatedly, would China come to their defense?

America has its Jew haters as evidenced by some comments here and by Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, some goof named Unz in California...but they are in the vast minority. America is not Obama and his cabal. It is not Hagel or Kerry or Brennan or James Baker.

Israel does not need China as a friend, but America could use a friend to help them today.

China would not shed a single tear nor lift a single finger if Israel was attacked by one of China's allies.

Neither would Hagel, Buchanan, Ron Paul or some of the above commenters.

Obama, Kerry and Clinton would pay lip service and find a way to slow walk the faux response.

But the American people would rush into the fire. Believe that with all your heart.

We need a friend now with our government turned against Israel...and...against its own people.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chinese: "we Chinese have a culture of 3000 years."
Jew: "we Jews have a culture of 4000 years."
Chinese: "Impossible! What did you people eat for 1000 years?!"
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (102)
All Comments   (102)
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hallucinant

when I thought that not loosing the face was more important for the Chinese people

oh and about Europe, so sorry that we don't all speak english and to not apply the neo-liberal policies wanted by the WS financers

but we have the same unifying culture like boudhism shaped the Chinese minset, it's christianity, evident when it comes to integration, any european is easier to integrate into another european country than a Muslim from ME and or Maghreb is
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
another thing, the chinese favor the group to individual, it's why cutting some heads hadn't that importance by them than it had by our cultures, included Jewish's, we think as individuals first, them as a nation
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Goldman,

Are you off your meds? I expect sober analysis from you, not loopy nonsense like this. Do you really think that Tibetans deserved the genocide they experienced and the oppression they continue to experience? I can see the rough comparison between Chinese and Jews, but do you really want to compare the states of China and Israel? Such is greatly to the latter's detriment.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
The "logic" of this fantasy would point to Red Chinese support of Israel vs. the Arabs, Turkey and Iran. Is there really any sign of that whatsoever?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like Menachem’s comment, and Linus/Bill’s before that, this is a very interesting, thought provoking, and unexpected article. I am glad to hear there is an affinity for Israel and the Jews among the Chinese people. Like the affinity for Israel and the Jews among many American people however, that clearly does not always translate to a government affinity.

As much as I admire Mr Goldman, and I learn a great deal with every article I read, this is a splendid attempt at hopeful thinking. With the American government abandoning Israel, where else can Israel find friends? These are frightening times, especially for those with the gift of strategic vision. That can cause a search for hope in unlikely places, and I submit that China is an unlikely cause for hope for Israel, and frankly is a cause for concern for many other countries.

A country which does not value its own citizens cannot at all be expected to value the citizens of other countries. It would defy all logic and reason to conclude otherwise. Consider: China’s closest ally is North Korea. Are they better off for China’s support?
So where should Israel find support? To my knowledge, the only times that Israel/Judah ever had “rest on every side” was when they refused to depend upon alliances with other kingdoms and instead relied upon G_d. Every kingdom that ever allied with Israel/Judah eventually turned upon it. Every kingdom which Israel/Judah spared when they were in a powerful position, returned the favor later by attacking it.
My reading of what my faith calls the Old Testament leaves me with two broad conclusions. Israel/Judah suffered primarily when two things happened: (1) They turned to worship of foreign gods; OR (2) They relied on external alliances rather than the L_RD G_d of Hosts.

This is not to absolve America of what I consider to be her moral obligation. It is only to say that America, and every other nation in the world, cannot be trusted. For those who would like to take their support of Israel beyond the level of internet cheerleading: ramp up to petitions, legal advocacy and financial donations of same at this link http://aclj.org/israel I know there are other places as well, I am simply pointing out the venue that I use. This organization also has the benefit of simultaneously promoting/supporting U.S. Constitutional rights and Judeo-Christian religious freedom, which is actually its primary focus, but also allies with affiliate organizations worldwide.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is not a hopeful article, it's a statement of the blatantly obvious: culturally speaking, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. There are markers and identifying characteristics that label a people and a civilisation as either successful, or not. You don't have to engage in rhetorical engineering or carefully chew everybody's pap for them to lay this argument out. Look at what identifies the successful peoples and tat up the characteristics, a simple spreadsheet exercise.......
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a side note: Jewish Identity in China: A Chinese View

http://www.covenant.idc.ac.il/en/vol3/issue1/Jewish_Identity_in_China.html
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't see why China's neighbours conclude that the Beijing Politburo, at best, only pays lip service to their best interests. In other words, where are the efforts by Beijing to balance their best interests with those of their neighbours?

What I would like to know is this: How will Beijing view http://carolineglick.com/israel-and-the-death-of-pan-arabism/
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have no indication that China's leaders have thought through the implications of the situation that my friend Caroline Glick reports so vividly. China never asserted itself as a power in the Middle East and does not want to now, but it also cannot be indifferent to prospective chaos.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
A very interesting article indeed. There are however some points that need clarification-
Judaism is not based upon faith. It is based upon experience. Sinai, the encounter between Man and G-d, was experienced by an entire nation. That encounter is what has changed the world.
One may not become a Jew simply by living as a Jew or practicing Judaism. A spiritual rebirth through specific ritual is required. Once done, the newly created Jews is considered as , " one who was at Sinai and heard the Lords voice." This ceremony has far deeper consequence than can be discussed here however no true parallel exists. It's Holiness is unequalled.
The paramount act of the Jew is not prayer but lovingkindness. Judaism does not consider cutting oneself off from the community to engage in nothing but prayer as the path to righteousness. Prayer, charitable acts and true repentance from sin are the keys to a Holy life.
G-d is not Love. G-d does not command love. The most natural love the human knows , the love for a parent. is not commanded. It cannot be. The Commandment is to, " Honor thy father and thy mother ". Love is many things to many people people. It is felt differently in each heart. Honor however reflects appropriate action. How one treats a parent even if one has good reason not to love them. Many people suffer in their ives and blame G-d for their suffering. It would be hard for them not to. However one continues to honor G-d by living within His laws and not abandoning them.
The rebirth of sovereignty of the Jews in Eretz Yisroel defies logic and reason. It cannot simply be ascribed to any earthly power or series of events. It comes at a time in history that is crucial to the worlds continued existence. The facade of morality that the nations of the world hid behind has been stripped away. The treatment of Israel on the world stage and by the nations of the world is despicable.
G-d is not love. G-d is Justice and Truth. And G-d keeps His promises.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes: I referred to the mitzvot ("laws of diet and family purity, prayer, and Sabbath observance"). One does not have time to explain Judaism in passing in every essay. As Hazal said, the world is founded on Torah, Avodah (now expressed in prayer) and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of lovingkindness). Surely Justice is an Attribute of God, as is mercy; love is what God "is" but what he does, but with kina (passion, or "jealousy"). God does not command love of everyone but he does command it of Jews (the Shma Deut. 6:5) which is why wrapping tefillin includes a kind of marriage ceremony (Hosea 2:19-20). One might also say that conversion requires a rebirth in the flesh: Michael Wyschogrod writes that a convert by a miracle becomes a physical descendant of Abraham.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is true that Israel and China have characteristics in common, but not the ones Goldman thinks. Both countries were founded in a tradition of compassion but then were sidetracked by the siren song of corporate greed.

Chairman Mao built a compassionate society upon the wreckage of American and Japanese imperialism that cared for all of its people. However, they were plagued by a CIA insurgency that attempted to overthrow her like they did so many others who could provide a good example for American workers to emulate. That's why the much-maligned "cultural revolution" was necessary to rid the country of CIA elements. Desperate for a solution, Mao was beguiled by the serpent "Tricky Dick" Nixon who agreed to end the CIA insurgency in exchange for opening the door of the hitherto compassionate land of China to the foot of corporate greed. Now the once proud, free Chinese have been enslaved and pauperized by the American corporate plutocracy. Repression in China comes directly from corporate influence. The desire to protect KFC, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart was the reason for the Tienanmen Square massacre and the repression of Tibetans and Uyghurs who might not bow down to the American corpoarchy.

Israel was the land of Kibbutzim. Israel was founded by victims of corporate genocide who understood and had compassion. However, since 1967 she has been bamboozled by the greedy war merchants at Lockheed and General Dynamics into believing that corporatism and the genocide that inevitably accompanies it is the best way to get things done. If the Israelis renounced corporatism and militarism and embraced the values of the Kibbutzim, Israelis and Palestinians would live together in peace.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
How can you murder 40 to 70 million and build a compassionate society? Mao was a thug and a tyrant.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think this was meant ironically. I never argued that Chinese civilization was famous for compassion.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Re:
"China by contrast contains fifty-five distinct ethnic minorities and numerous spoken languages within a single political system. Despite the occasional [ ....which of course has been going on for countless centuries.....] eruption of separatist tendencies, China is in little danger of reverting to a loose confederation of ethnicities.".....because of the very direct and very firm repressive policies of the solidly entrenched communist Establishment. [Engels and Marx and, I guess Lenin also, surely must be wrinkling their noses at the "communal" aspects of the Chinese economy of today.]

Goldman here is surprisingly flippant in this paean to the Chinese.....he's ignoring completely the savagery and the brutality of that infamous "Cultural Revolution"....'cultural', indeed; throughout History the Chinese have left female fetuses in the rice paddies. This continues to this day. An adjunct to this callousness is the infamous Mao inspired "one child" family policy that its advocates claim is a step towards stabilizing that Malthusian population of 1.4 billion. Where are the vasectomy figures? They're [the Chinese] world leaders in the technique, aren't they?

All in all, a very strange article by Mr Goldman.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are many things about today's China I find repugnant as well as many things about China's past. The question, though, is why Chinese civilization has survived so long and why it is so successful today: China has risen from chaos and poverty to become prosperous, powerful and self-confident. My idea of the world's most successful nation--as I wrote--is America, not China. I don't have to fill in the blanks on every occasion. Nonetheless China's longevity and success are remarkable. Many Americans assume that China will collapse of it own weight sometime soon; that, I think, is a delusion born of narcissism.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Chairman Mao built a compassionate society upon the wreckage of American and Japanese imperialism that cared for all of its people."
Good lord, I suppose there are leftists that believe this garbage. I suppose the millions that Mao murdered were the fault of the CIA as well.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
What about British Imperialism? Anyone, for starters, ever heard of the Opium Wars?

Much, much later I was an Ameddican [sic] expat in Kowloon Tong during the 1960's and still remember the great influx of refugees from the Communist Mainland, a great number of them squatting in a vacant area very near where I lived on Oxford Road. Chinese escapees were literally swimming in hazardous waters to get away. Landslides across the Harbor during the rainy season also killed great numbers of refugee-squatters.

The Mainland Refugee Problem in Hong Kong was very nearly out of control.

[..again, a strange article by Goldman]
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just read a piece on Bloomberg that the Spanish were taking textile industry jobs at 700 Euros a month and competing with Chinese manufacturers. That's what industrial workers make in China with a bit of overtime. It seems that Chinese living standards are converging with Europe's at the margin! That's a lot of progress since the 1960s.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
The rules for success as a culture seem pretty simple at base. Respect for knowledge and willingness to innovate, even playfully. This infused with courage and grit into some "hard yakka" (meaning work for those not in the know) and a large degree of unification with a good splash of diversity. China lacks the degree of diversity and ideological playfulness which has served Anglo and Jewish cultures so well, can you imagine a version of Seinfeld springing out of Beijing? Or a quantum physics? They like their neighbors are largely engineering from the petri dish that is America:-) and largely keeping at bay some of its more rancid fungi like rampant meth addiction and crack cocaine among many. Poor American youth! Over diversification of America will ultimately...oh there I go again, making it all about me-sorry:-(
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
America was not an ethnic splitaway, like the abortive Scots rising of the 1740s.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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