If you're a white guy in China and you own a suit — Congratulations! You're hired.
There’s an odd trend brewing there, where companies hire fake executives from the U.S. and other Western nations to attend events, give speeches and generally just to give that appearance in the community and in the business world of that connection with the western world.
“I think it says a lot about the business culture here,” said Mitch Moxley, a freelance writer living in Beijing who was hired to be a fake businessman for a high-tech company building a factory in Dongying, five hours south of Beijing. “Face is hugely important in China, and having foreigners in suits I guess gives some credibility to the companies. You’d be amazed how often this happens.”
Moxley said he, along with five other guys, was hired to be a “quality-control expert” for $1,000 a week, though it was made clear to him at the time of hiring that they wouldn’t be doing any quality control.
The job would entail attending some dinners, going to a ceremony and touring the factory once a day. The rest of the time, he and the other “executives” sat in fly-ridden office, where they slept, read magazines and joked around.
Moxley remembers the first time he visited the building site, he asked a foreman: Who's in charge here? The foreman replied, “You are.” In fact, they picked the eldest-looking of the fake executives, Ernie, and put him in charge. He even had to give a speech.
“After our company ‘director’ finished his speech and was posing for a photo with the mayor, I remember having this ‘I can’t believe they bought that’ sense of accomplishment – like a teenager who successfully lies to his parents about smoking,” Moxley said. “It was pretty funny.”
Moxley said they were told they were working for a U.S. company based in California, a story that later turned out to be untrue. It was really just a ruse to impress the workers and the entire community — they even had the mayor at the opening — that they were some fancypants American company.
Moxley said being a fake executive has become a lucrative source of income for expats living in China. Though, sorry ladies, this is China after all — they’re only hiring men.
Moxley said he knows a half dozen men who’ve done this type of work, and since he wrote an article about his experience in The Atlantic magazine, dozens more have written to him sharing their experiences. He was recruited by a friend of a friend — a headhunter for white guys in suits, if you will — but said sometimes you can also find ads in the local classifieds for this type of work.
Call it the ultimate revenge on outsourcing — Outsourcing yourself to China!
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