14/03/2023 (Tuesday) 15:00-16:00 E21B-G035

The Last Kings of Shanghai: How Two Rival Jewish Dynasties Ignited the Rise of China


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.

In this talk, Mr. Kaufman will talk about the remarkable history of how the Sassoon and Kadoorie 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.


Jonathan Kaufman is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter and author. Under his leadership, Kaufman’s team at Bloomberg won numerous awards including a 2015 Pulitzer Prize, several George Polk Awards, the Overseas Press Club Award, a Gerald Loeb Award, the Osborn Elliott Prize of the Asia Society, and the Education Writers Association Grand Prize. Prior to Bloomberg, Kaufman was a senior editor and Beijing Bureau Chief of TheWall Street Journal and a reporter and Berlin Bureau Chief of the Boston Globe where he was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for a series examining racism and job discrimination in Boston. Kaufman’s specialties are the role of Jews in American politics and around the world; the challenges facing media in the 21st century and in the age of President Donald Trump; race relations and class in the United States; and Chinese politics, economy and relations with the United States.