Why did China propose a Jewish a state in 1928?
An error in translation.
While embarking on a fundraising mission for Jewish settlement in Palestine, an unknown Zionist delegate arrived in Peking in 1928 and filed paperwork with authorities there for permission to solicit in China. The paperwork was misinterpreted as an application to purchase a parcel of land for settlement, and an amusing sequence of events ensued, as reported by the London Daily Telegraph on July 10, 1928 and by JTA one day later:
The Minister of the Interior at Peking thought the Zionist wanted to purchase land in China for the purpose of settling Jews there and promised a special treaty if the Zionists would indicate the site for the proposed homeland and the approximate area required.
The Director of Lands had already proceeded with drafting an agreement, when, through the British Minister at Pekin, the delegate managed to explain he only required permission to raise funds among Jews in China for the Palestine upbuilding work. This permission was granted.
Too bad the Zionist delegate didn’t have greater foresight; a second Jewish state in China could have easily solved the Birthright wait list issue.
h/t Prof. Jonathan Sarna and anonymous Twitter user @WashingtonViews