A current phenomenon in China is occurring where big businesses are hiring caucasians to fill a very specific role – the white person.
“We were being paraded around a half-built factory and we had to sit in temporary offices the rest of the day, not really doing anything. We were sleeping at our desks or reading magazines.”
This strange practice has been happening in provincial China where the notion of white privilege is taking on an entirely different form. According to those who are aware of the job offers, the businesses hiring white people to do nothing except stand around and look important are doing so to satisfy a cultural concept of “face” – as in, the notion of presenting to others that they run a successful company because they can afford to hire a caucasian worker. This in turn leads to respect and status amongst peers and the general public.
According to reports from various outlets and those who have gone over to take on the jobs in China, it’s a pretty straight forward affair. White folks don’t need any experience and there are even Chinese firms which rent out foreign-looking people to attend events – of those foreigners commanding the highest callout fees? Caucasians.
At the moment the white employment policy is most prevalent amongst China’s real estate entrepreneurs where the whitest looking people are sent to live in huge apartment complexes facing vacancy issues.
“[Real estate companies] believe that filling their remote buildings with foreign faces, even for a day, suggests that the area is ‘international,’ a buzzword in provincial areas that often translates to ‘buy,’ ” says David Borstein at The New York Times. More specifically the real estate companies will often request that rented foreigners act like famous musicians and models to increase the building’s appeal amongst locals.
Mitch Moxley is a freelance writer based in Beijing who was one of these rented caucasians. He was paid US$1,000 a month to act as a fake white businessman.
“It was pretty funny,” Moxley told NPR. “The whole thing was a little bit surreal. We were down there and were being paraded around a half-built factory and we had to sit in temporary offices the rest of the day, not really doing anything. We were sleeping at our desks or reading magazines.”
Zhang Haihua who is the author of Think Like Chinese, told CNN that, “face, we say in China, is more important than life itself.”
“Because Western countries are so developed, people think they are more well off, so people think that if a company can hire foreigners, it must have a lot of money and have very important connections overseas. So when they really want to impress someone, they may roll out a foreigner.”
These types of roles have quickly spawned their own term of the ‘White Monkey’. To spot a ‘White Monkey’ job opening, one simply needs to analyse the signs of a Chinese job listing.
These include: Looking for poorly written job ads in English, spotting jobs that focus on looks rather than experience, a job with a specific height or weight requirement and a job ad which specifies “Caucasian only”.