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Chinese Companies Burnish Images By "Renting White Guys"

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Mitch Moxley, a writer in Beijing, had a piece in the July/August issue of the Atlantic that I can't believe I missed.

Though the article, titled, "Rent a White Guy," is a few months old, it still bears a mention.

“I call these things ‘White Guy in a Tie’ events,' a Canadian friend of a friend named Jake told me during the recruitment pitch he gave me in Beijing, where I live," Moxley wrote. “Basically, you put on a suit, shake some hands, and make some money. We’ll be in ‘quality control,’ but nobody’s gonna be doing any quality control. You in?”

Moxley accepted the challenge.

"Six of us met at the Beijing airport, where Jake briefed us on the details. We were supposedly representing a California-based company that was building a facility in Dongying. Our responsibilities would include making daily trips to the construction site, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and hobnobbing. During the ceremony, one of us would have to give a speech as the company’s director. That duty fell to my friend Ernie, who, in his late 30s, was the oldest of our group. His business cards had already been made."

He described the experience of a friend, "an American who works in film, [who] was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future." Another "was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer."

"Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image—particularly, the image of connection—that Chinese companies crave," Moxley explained. "My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: 'Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.'"

Sounds like a great gig. In fact, it's a great enough gig that a commenter going by the name of "Prometeo" is willing to wait for an opening he's suited for.

"Guess I don't qualify for the job. Too bad," he writes. "Call me when they [have] a 'Rent a Puerto Rican Guy' event."
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.