Departures Podcast with Jonathan Kaufman

For 175 years, well before the young Mao Zedong began his Long March, two rival Jewish dynasties dominated Chinese business and politics, accumulating massive wealth and power while navigating the tumultuous history of the period before losing nearly everything once the Communists swept into power.

Jonathan Kaufman, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the author of the “The Last Kings of Shanghai,” joins Robert Amsterdam on the podcast to discuss the fascinating stories of these two families, the Sassoons and the Kadoories, and how their tremendous impact on China can still be felt and observed today.

“When you go to Shanghai, you can see how Shanghai was the New York or London of its time. Charlie Chaplin would go there. Noel Coward would go there. It was a crossroads for business, it was really the first globalized city. So a lot of the issues we deal with today with globalization including poverty and inequity, but also the breaking down of borders, Shanghai represented,” Kaufman says.

Kaufman points out these complexities aren’t always recognized in Chinese history during our current moment of inward-looking nationalism, and that we sometimes forget that there is another history of a country that championed economic dynamism, that led with openness, and had great success in working with the West.