China, Anti-Semitism and the “Goldman Sachs Conspiracy”

After my post last week on Li Delin’s (李德林) book “Goldman Sachs Conspiracy (高盛阴谋), both Forbes and the Associated Press wrote about the Chinese bestseller.

Li Delin did not like the Western press coverage. In a post on his Sohu blog titled “Americans Don’t Get Excited, It Was Just a Creation Out of a Piss 美国人别激动,那只是一泡尿的创意“, Li criticizes the attention, both because my post suggested possible anti-Semitic undertones, and because he thinks in general that the press is making too big of a deal of his book. Li says he had no ulterior motive, and that his publisher and a staffer came up with the idea for the book over a piss and then hired Li to write it.

As for any anti-Semitism, I should have given more perspective in my original post beyond that it contains “an undercurrent of anti-Semitism”. Apparently some Chinese people think that Isreali Shar Pei dogs are an especially smart breed. In my experience, Chinese tend to like Jewish people because they believe that the stereotypical Jewish person places very high value on family, education and money–just like Chinese do. In fact, some of my friends have told me that if their daughters have to marry a foreigner they hope he is Jewish. As anyone who has lived in China knows, the Chinese are very open about discussing other races and religions, sometimes pejoratively, sometimes not.

Growing up I was taught to try to avoid viewing people through racial or religious prisms. Maybe that makes me too sensitive, or maybe not. I read through this book and thought about the firestorm that would erupt if Matt Taibbi or others had written about Goldman Sachs and said they had the IQ of Israeli Shar Pei Dogs (p. 26), referred to founder Marcus Goldman as having Bavarian Jewish blood (p. 217), or described J. Aron as a firm “with pure Jewish bloodlines” (p. 249). And these are just references I found skimming through a handful of chapters in the book; there are no doubt more.

To my Jewish readers, do you think this has anti-Semitic undertones? Or are these just innocent descriptors used by Chinese with no inhibitions discussing foreigners?

The bigger issue I have with the book is the very strong nationalist sentiment, and especially the idea that Goldman is out to get with China. That just does not conform with reality. People who know me know I am no Goldman defender, but if an author is going to bash the firm I hope they at least do so with facts, of which there are plenty to justify attacks on the bank.

I purchased the official copy at a state-owned Xinhua bookstore. There is also at least one pirated version available online that does not contain any reference to Israeli Shar Pei dogs. As for calling this a bestseller, the rule of thumb as I understand it is that for every official copy sold in China there are probably 10 pirated versions read. Assuming 100,000 sold, that would mean 1 million or more people have this book. No matter what the government thinks of Goldman Sachs, more and more Chinese think they are anti-Chinese banksters. And that can’t be good for Goldman’s business in China.

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17 thoughts on “China, Anti-Semitism and the “Goldman Sachs Conspiracy”

  1. My overall impression from reading your review was it’s a bad book. If I was Jewish I’d take comfort from that and more importantly I’ve no inclination to read it now.

    Though I have huge problems with Goldman standards of wealth creation.

    I’ve never read anything of yours that suggested anything other than fair and even handed analysis.

  2. My overall impression from reading your review was it’s a bad book. If I was Jewish I’d take comfort from that and more importantly I’ve no inclination to read it now.

    Though I have huge problems with Goldman standards of wealth creation.

    I’ve never read anything of yours that suggested anything other than fair and even handed analysis.

  3. I agree with you that Chinese are quite open – more open than Americans, surely – about discussing racial differences. But in all of the discussions I’ve had with Chinese about race, I’ve never once heard anyone drop a line such as the one referring to J.Aron (“pure Jewish bloodlines”). That’s the language of classical European anti-Semitism, with a very traceable and ugly lineage, and I’m very sorry to learn that it’s made its way into so-called Chinese business journalism. Li Delin is full of shit.

  4. I agree with you that Chinese are quite open – more open than Americans, surely – about discussing racial differences. But in all of the discussions I’ve had with Chinese about race, I’ve never once heard anyone drop a line such as the one referring to J.Aron (“pure Jewish bloodlines”). That’s the language of classical European anti-Semitism, with a very traceable and ugly lineage, and I’m very sorry to learn that it’s made its way into so-called Chinese business journalism. Li Delin is full of shit.

  5. Growing up I was taught to try to avoid viewing people through racial or religious prisms.

    Well goody for you. The US went through 200 years of seeing people through racial prisms, and since you’ve been in Beijing since 2005, allow me to inform you that ugly, hideous anti-Islam tropes are wending their way through the land, aided and abetted by the right-wing Republican Jewish Coalition and Christian Zionists who distributed 125 million anti-Islam DVDs in east coast newspapers. [See Rabbi Beliak’s site for a rundown on these cretins: http://www.jewsonfirst.org/08a/cufi_obsession.html ] The recent ‘ground zero mosque’ fiasco was started by one of their members.

    The bigger issue I have with the book is the very strong nationalist sentiment, and especially the idea that Goldman is out to get with China.

    Wow, that’s rich. “Strong nationalist sentiment?” Our strong nationalist sentiment caused us to bomb Afghanistan for its purported involvement in 911 — none — kill 1.2 million Iraqis for their WMD — none — maim 60,000 US soldiers in Iraq, and kill 7,000 more. You, a product of the most jingoistic nation on earth, excoriate the Chinese?

    As for Goldman out to get China? Just like the evidence for 911 beetle-assing it off our shores for China, Goldman absconded with US taxpayer bailout money to China lickety-split and used it for its own gain in a country it views as ripe for the plucking. (Don’t you read their communiques?) The pattern is the same: make a handful Buffett-rich, put the possibility into the populace that they can have it too, then see what happens to peace in the land when the government tries to stop the over-reaching and cowboy tactics. Envy and dissension.

    Now, for your red-herring: anti-semitism. Jewish activist jeffrey Blankfort, who was around for the Holocaust, said it best: ‘If it’s true, it’s not anti-semitism’. So, does Marcus Goldman have Bavarian Jewish blood, Canadian Quaker blood, or Indian blood? What’s the truth? Does J. Aron have pure Jewish bloodlines going back a century or two, or does it have an Episcopalian bloodline like the old Wall Street houses, or is it mixed? What’s the truth? You find out the truth, you’ll know whether it’s anti-semitic or not.

    Oh, the mention of blood is the issue? Tough. That’s how Jewish society and religion is determined. My mother is Jewish (so is my Dad). Until the end of my days I’ll be Jewish even if I become a Buddhist monk, or remain what I am, an atheist. Deal with it, and stop this goyisch angst.

  6. Growing up I was taught to try to avoid viewing people through racial or religious prisms.

    Well goody for you. The US went through 200 years of seeing people through racial prisms, and since you’ve been in Beijing since 2005, allow me to inform you that ugly, hideous anti-Islam tropes are wending their way through the land, aided and abetted by the right-wing Republican Jewish Coalition and Christian Zionists who distributed 125 million anti-Islam DVDs in east coast newspapers. [See Rabbi Beliak’s site for a rundown on these cretins: http://www.jewsonfirst.org/08a/cufi_obsession.html ] The recent ‘ground zero mosque’ fiasco was started by one of their members.

    The bigger issue I have with the book is the very strong nationalist sentiment, and especially the idea that Goldman is out to get with China.

    Wow, that’s rich. “Strong nationalist sentiment?” Our strong nationalist sentiment caused us to bomb Afghanistan for its purported involvement in 911 — none — kill 1.2 million Iraqis for their WMD — none — maim 60,000 US soldiers in Iraq, and kill 7,000 more. You, a product of the most jingoistic nation on earth, excoriate the Chinese?

    As for Goldman out to get China? Just like the evidence for 911 beetle-assing it off our shores for China, Goldman absconded with US taxpayer bailout money to China lickety-split and used it for its own gain in a country it views as ripe for the plucking. (Don’t you read their communiques?) The pattern is the same: make a handful Buffett-rich, put the possibility into the populace that they can have it too, then see what happens to peace in the land when the government tries to stop the over-reaching and cowboy tactics. Envy and dissension.

    Now, for your red-herring: anti-semitism. Jewish activist jeffrey Blankfort, who was around for the Holocaust, said it best: ‘If it’s true, it’s not anti-semitism’. So, does Marcus Goldman have Bavarian Jewish blood, Canadian Quaker blood, or Indian blood? What’s the truth? Does J. Aron have pure Jewish bloodlines going back a century or two, or does it have an Episcopalian bloodline like the old Wall Street houses, or is it mixed? What’s the truth? You find out the truth, you’ll know whether it’s anti-semitic or not.

    Oh, the mention of blood is the issue? Tough. That’s how Jewish society and religion is determined. My mother is Jewish (so is my Dad). Until the end of my days I’ll be Jewish even if I become a Buddhist monk, or remain what I am, an atheist. Deal with it, and stop this goyisch angst.

    • “If it’s true, it’s not anti-semitism”
      It really depends a lot on context, now doesn’t it?

      Picture a colleague of yours that is black, for instance, and that you greeted him every day in the hall with a “Hello Black Man”. While it may be true that the individual is black, referring to his race when race is irrelevant to the matter at hand is racist.

      I could think of a slew of other examples but truth or falsity is not really the core question that needs to be asked when attempting to discern racism from fair comment.

  7. Possible correction. I originally thought it was 27 million DVDs that the RJC distributed. I later read it was 125 million, a figure so outrageous that it stuck in my mind. This higher figure may have been mentioned in jewsonfirst.org’s final exhaustive report on this, not the link I give above. They were distributed in every metro area NYT, the WaPo, Atlanta, Delaware, and Miami papers, and at Republican conventions, police depts, libraires, etc etc from Boston to Florida for over a year.

  8. When even the author of a book calls it “the creation of a piss”, you know it’s a piece of trash. His use of stereotypes about Jews is confirms completely with the rest of the trash in the book.

    But Chinese are generally so approving of Jews and Jewish culture that I find it difficult to get too excited about a trash book using cultural stereotypes to criticize Goldman Sachs.

  9. When even the author of a book calls it “the creation of a piss”, you know it’s a piece of trash. His use of stereotypes about Jews is confirms completely with the rest of the trash in the book.

    But Chinese are generally so approving of Jews and Jewish culture that I find it difficult to get too excited about a trash book using cultural stereotypes to criticize Goldman Sachs.

  10. “If it’s true, it’s not anti-semitism”
    It really depends a lot on context, now doesn’t it?

    Picture a colleague of yours that is black, for instance, and that you greeted him every day in the hall with a “Hello Black Man”. While it may be true that the individual is black, referring to his race when race is irrelevant to the matter at hand is racist.

    I could think of a slew of other examples but truth or falsity is not really the core question that needs to be asked when attempting to discern racism from fair comment.

  11. Stating that many of the founders of Goldman were Jewish is not, in and of itself, anti-Semitic. It really depends on the context. On one hand, it would be strange in a history of the firm to *not* mention the ethnic/religious background of Goldman’s founders. So to state that Goldman’s founders were Jewish is perfectly OK in the context of a general history of the firm. But repeated off-hand references to that fact when discussing current-day financial improprieties (or allegations thereof) would be unseemly at best.

    The trope of blood is a bit more troubling. Perhaps it’s just a tic of an overheated and lazy writer? Again, I’d have to read the whole book before leveling a charge of anti-Semitism. If the writers/editors describe everybody in the same terms, I’d be more inclined to chalk it up to general stupidity.

    I suppose my overall cautious tone is reflective of the fact that a) I haven’t read the book in its entirety and that b) as you point out, China is relatively philo-Semitic and innocent of the latent suspicions that so frequently manifest elsewhere in the world.

  12. Stating that many of the founders of Goldman were Jewish is not, in and of itself, anti-Semitic. It really depends on the context. On one hand, it would be strange in a history of the firm to *not* mention the ethnic/religious background of Goldman’s founders. So to state that Goldman’s founders were Jewish is perfectly OK in the context of a general history of the firm. But repeated off-hand references to that fact when discussing current-day financial improprieties (or allegations thereof) would be unseemly at best.

    The trope of blood is a bit more troubling. Perhaps it’s just a tic of an overheated and lazy writer? Again, I’d have to read the whole book before leveling a charge of anti-Semitism. If the writers/editors describe everybody in the same terms, I’d be more inclined to chalk it up to general stupidity.

    I suppose my overall cautious tone is reflective of the fact that a) I haven’t read the book in its entirety and that b) as you point out, China is relatively philo-Semitic and innocent of the latent suspicions that so frequently manifest elsewhere in the world.

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