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The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China - Jonathan Kaufman


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The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China: Kaufman, Jonathan: 9780735224438: Books - Amazon.ca


First heard about this book, in the book recommendation section of The Economist. In fact there were two books but the second one i don t really remember, but will look for it.

Just bought this paperbook and am a good one third through. I was always fascinated by Hong Kong, trade, opuim wars, China etc and more or less that region of the world and this is superb book that covers a lot of it.


I highly recommend this book, it follows the story of two merchant famillies from Baghdad, who end up establishing themselves in east Asia and built their commercial enterprises. Their commercial dynaties end with the Communist take over in 1949. The one dark cloud in this otherwise successfull establishment (Sassons) was their wholesale participation in the opuim trade and the immense profits they made of it.

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Two others on similar lines


Barons of the Sea: And Their Race to Build the World's Fastest Clipper Ship




Architect of Prosperity: Sir John Cowperthwaite and the Making of Hong Kong


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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you,

The "Making of Hong Kong" looks interesting. Will probably buy that one.


I finally finished reading "The Last Kings of Shanghai"; great fast read and contrary to my first post, the story does not end in 1949. Of the two families, the Sassoons were the stronger than Kadoorie family up until 1949. Their mistake was putting all their eggs in Shanghai. After the fall of Shanghai, Victor Sassoon, the patriach, folded his card and left Asia entirely somewhat disappointed and disillusioned. 


In contrast, the less powerful Kadoorie had some holdings in Hong Kong so had a diversified set of assets. After losing Shanghai, they stayed in Hong Kong and doubled down in a time where there were threats of Red invasion of the island, their patience and their commitment to stay in the game, was rewarded by being there in the region when China re-opened.


At the time of writing of the book (few years ago), they were worth north of +$10 billion dollars and committed to Hong Kong and PRC. The book quotes President Xi telling Michael Kadoories, the current patriach, that "they were always friend of China", and reportedly he is the only western Hong Kong billionaire in business meetings (involving HK) with Beijing. 


Their two main holdings are China Light and Power Company & The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels

CLP is worth HK$165 billion market cap while HongKong & Shangai Hotel is worth KH$11 billion market cap. Next time you are staying at a Peninsula Hotel, know that there is an interesting history behind it going back to the Baghdad and an exiled jewish family.


Contrast that legacy to the Sassoons who are now history.



There is another book that is coming out soon. The focus is really just on the Sassoons at the height of their power in the 19th centuary. That timeline is also covered by the first book that I mentioned but this one goes into great depth.


The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire: Sassoon, Joseph: 9780593679029: Books - Amazon.ca

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  • Parsad changed the title to The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China - Jonathan Kaufman

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