The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China
- Jonathan Kaufman
- 9.1 X 6.1 X 1.6 inches
- 1.25 pounds
- History > Asia - China
Not just a brilliant, well-researched, and highly readable book about China's past, it also reveals the contingencies and ironic twists of fate in China's modern history.--LA Review of Books
An epic, multigenerational story of two rival dynasties who flourished in Shanghai and Hong Kong as twentieth-century China surged into the modern era, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Shanghai, 1936. The Cathay Hotel, located on the city's famous waterfront, is one of the most glamorous in the world. Built by Victor Sassoon--billionaire playboy and scion of the Sassoon dynasty--the hotel hosts a who's who of global celebrities: Noel Coward has written a draft of Private Lives in his suite and Charlie Chaplin has entertained his wife-to-be. And a few miles away, Mao and the nascent Communist Party have been plotting revolution.
By the 1930s, the Sassoons had been doing business in China for a century, rivaled in wealth and influence by only one other dynasty--the Kadoories. These two Jewish families, both originally from Baghdad, stood astride Chinese business and politics for more than 175 years, profiting from the Opium Wars; surviving Japanese occupation; courting Chiang Kai-shek; and losing nearly everything as the Communists swept into power. In The Last Kings of Shanghai, Jonathan Kaufman tells the remarkable history of how these families participated in an economic boom that opened China to the world, but remained blind to the country's deep inequality and to the political turmoil at their doorsteps. In a story stretching from Baghdad to Hong Kong to Shanghai to London, Kaufman enters the lives and minds of these ambitious men and women to forge a tale of opium smuggling, family rivalry, political intrigue, and survival.
The book lays bare the moral compromises of the Kadoories and the Sassoons--and their exceptional foresight, success, and generosity. At the height of World War II, they joined together to rescue and protect eighteen thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism. Though their stay in China started out as a business opportunity, the country became a home they were reluctant to leave, even on the eve of revolution. The lavish buildings they built and the booming businesses they nurtured continue to define Shanghai and Hong Kong to this day. As the United States confronts China's rise, and China grapples with the pressures of breakneck modernization and global power, the long-hidden odysseys of the Sassoons and the Kadoories hold a key to understanding the present moment.
Jonathan Kaufman is Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, editor and author. He is currently Executive Editor for Company News at Bloomberg News, overseeing more than 300 reporters and editors globally who cover technology, energy, autos, deals, industrials, consumer products, education, science and health. Projects he has overseen at Bloomberg have won numerous awards including finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, several George Polk Awards, an Overseas Press Club Award, a Gerald Loeb Award and Education Writers Association Grand Prize.
Prior to joining Bloomberg, Mr. Kaufman was deputy Page One editor at The Wall Street Journal and also served as the Wall Street Journal's China Bureau Chief, based in Beijing. He also served as Berlin Bureau Chief of the Boston Globe. As a reporter, Mr. Kaufman covered race and class issues in the workplace and on college campuses and wrote about race and women's issues in the extraordinary 2008 presidential campaign.
Mr. Kaufman has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of two well-reviewed books, "A Hole in the Heart of the World: Being Jewish in Eastern Europe" and "Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America" which won the National Jewish Book Award.
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