Although China is transitioning into one of the major economic forces in the 21st century, controversial race issues with old origins are re-emerging as a new service in China — rent a Laowei (Chinese for foreigner).
CNN recently wrote an article exploiting the new trade in China, where Chinese companies are hiring white people to portray business executives to impress clients and officials. Often, these workers are out-of-work models, teachers and actors. CNN’s Lara Farrar reports that, “To have a few foreigners hanging around means a company has prestige, money and the increasingly crucial connections—real or not—to businesses abroad.”
Being foreign is a career advantage in China. Last year, Jonathan Zatkin, an American actor who lives in Beijing posed as the vice-president of an Italian jewelry company that had allegedly been in business with a Chinese jewelry company for nearly a decade.
Zatkin was paid around 2,000 yuan ($300 CAD) to fly to a small city in the province of Henan to deliver a speech in English.
Occasionally, these jobs can go awry. Brad Smith, who posed as an executive, said 18 months ago Beijing police showed up at his apartment after a financial company he worked for in Xi’an, a city in western China, allegedly swindled millions of yuan out of clients.
The whole concept reiterates days of colonialism and presumed status associated with race.