One of my favorite things about China is the famous “red carpet treatment when an overseas visitor walks into a plant — pretty much any plant in which it buys parts –for the first time. I dragged my husband with me one time on a trip to China (where I actually passed him off as an employee of our firm — with fake business cards and all — which makes the story to follow slightly ironic) because I was nearly six months pregnant and thought to myself, better Jason drink the paint thinner national drink than me! Vile stuff if I may add. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to attend a red carpet Chinese welcome, (and perhaps those of you who have) you will appreciate this story. Think of it as a mini-Oscar awards event for us manufacturing types, less the Joan Rivers fashion review. So there we were, somewhere in Shandong Province visiting a spring manufacturer when our car pulled up to a hundred workers all perfectly dressed in matching blue uniforms who stood on two sides and welcomed us with a standing ovation lasting more than 5 minutes!
Of course that experience made me chuckle particularly the obligatory Lazy Susan feast that followed, attended by the local Communist leader toasting “Gan bei every 35 seconds (with the paint thinner drink previously mentioned). But now after reading this article from The Atlantic entitled: Rent a White Guy, I’m wondering how many of these events are “staged vs. “real. According to the article, a guy gets a job with a company in China (said to be an American company but the guy has never heard of the company) as a QA expert (though he has no experience in quality) and will earn $1000 per week and stay in fancy hotels and eat nice meals in exchange for putting on a suit to act as a fake businessman in China. The author goes on to talk about how six underemployed “white guys fly to Beijing and obtain their assignments to attend ribbon cutting events, perhaps make a speech, hand out the fake business cards, and well, attend the proper red carpet event in appropriate business attire etc. Some of the “employees were taken to the “temporary/staged offices of said employer and read magazines and even watched movies on their computers (those offered an extended stay) to pass the time.
I have to admit that at first blush, I thought this story outrageous. Remember that guy who used to write for The New Republic years back and admitted to having fabricated years of stories and sources? If this were not China, I’d assume this a similar Steven Glass moment. But knowing just a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes, you can count me as a believer. On the other hand, if I were 15 years younger, this rather sounds like a fun way to make a buck and see a new country.