Mr O’Neill was inspired to write on this unique topic after meeting many remarkable Jewish people in China over the past four decades, including dairy farmers, IT specialists, rabbis, diplomats, professors and businessmen, who traded in everything from sports shoes to machine guns and missiles.
Jewish people first arrived in China during the Tang dynasty and after being welcomed in their new country, a large synagogue was built by Jewish settlers in Kaifeng. The next settlers arrived in Shanghai and Harbin in the 19th and 20th centuries, building large and successful communities. Later, during the Second World War, 30,000 Jews from Europe escaped the Holocaust by taking refuge in Shanghai. Mr O’Neill recounts the stories of the Chinese and Japanese diplomats in Europe who issued thousands of visas to save them.
After the War and the Communist revolution, a large majority of Jews left China for Israel and the West. They began to return during the reform and open-door era and have rebuilt communities in Beijing, Shanghai and other large cities. Israel and China first established diplomatic relations in January 1992 and economic ties have boomed ever since. China has become a major investor in Israel. Jewish people have also had a profound influence on China, including Karl Marx, Henry Kissinger, Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.
Mark O’Neill was educated at New College, Oxford University and has lived and worked in Asia since 1978. He is a Hong-Kong based journalist and author, who has written a total of eight books on Chinese history, five of which were translated to traditional and simplified Chinese. He is a former correspondent of the South China Morning Post and spent several years in Mainland China, Taiwan and Japan before moving to Hong Kong. He recently published his new book entitled Israel and China: from the Tang Dynasty to Silicon Wadi.
Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$150 for RGS Members and HK$200 for guests and others. This event is free of charge for Student Members.