The average salary in Shanghai for an educated person is estimated at around 600$, but the cost of rent for a double room apartment costs much higher than 1,000$. In a city like this, it is essential to acquire financial life skills to survive: from the basic understanding that one must resist buying things on a whim, and up to the ability to create long term savings for essential expenses. Two Jewish people in the city decided that they know how to ‘sell’ these skills to children and teenagers, so that when they grow older they can better manage their lives financially.
“If you are Jewish, you must be rich and smart” – this, according to Avichai Sery and Neir Nelik, is the common Chinese stereotype regarding the Jewish people. Sary served in unit 8200 in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), and Nelik is an education man that worked for many years in Shanghai. The two believe that the stereotype can be used to instill “Jewish financial life skills” to Shanghai’s youth, by creating a whole system that would support in teaching correct financial education that would include, among others, visits to Israel.
Sary and Nelik’s company plans two main training methods. The first and main one is a mobile application that accompanies youth in the city of ages 6 to 17. Through the application, the users will learn correct financial behavior, and it will help them decide what to buy and when. It is possible that in the future, the users will be able to do their shopping through the application, and it will help them with their behavior in real-time, ‘on the spot’. The second method includes weekly lessons in Shanghai and a yearly summer camp in Israel, in which the kids will learn how to think ‘out of the box’ and try to solve problems and difficulties creatively, how to make financial decisions in real-time, and how to acquire life skills that will help them along the way, even if at this stage of their lives they are completely supported by their parents. Sary and Nelik work from Shanghai in order to learn the field daily and to suit their product to the local needs.
Sinai Nissenboim, the Israeli-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Manager in Shanghai, says that in addition to Sary and Nelik, hundreds of other Israelis are involved in the high tech and technology industries in the city. An accurate number is not available due to the fact that many are constantly travelling between Israel and China. The Chamber of Commerce founded in 2008 by a group of business people working in China in order to help Israeli people wishing to penetrate the Chinese market. The chamber works closely with the Israeli consulate and embassy, and at the branch inauguration in Beijing it was honored by the presence of the Israeli president at the time, Shimon Peres. Last year, the Shanghai branch was inaugurated as well.
According to the chamber of commerce, the Israeli export to China is mainly controlled by a few large companies, but in the last few years, more and more small and medium sized Israeli companies are trying to penetrate the Chinese market. For example, in 2016, Chinese investors took part in about half of the rounds of capital raising of Israeli startup companies. According to Nissenboim, the chamber receives requests from Israeli technology companies looking for Chinese investors, requests from Chinese investors looking for investment channels in a certain technology, and also many requests to find candidate companies to join “incubators” and startup accelerators from official Chinese bodies of commerce asking to strengthen China’s innovative technological infrastructure.
According to Nissenboim, the Chinese government has an ongoing aspiration to find new ways to improve the lives of around 1.3 billion citizens, and many Israeli companies can do this and serve the interests of both sides. In China they prefer, usually, to conduct business with familiar people, and the chamber working in Shanghai can help promote the cooperation between Chinese and Israeli businessmen. Today there are more than 130 Israeli companies that take part in the chamber’s activities in China, and Chinese companies that ask to make business connections with Israel.