There's opportunity in China even if you're a Westerner with no skills. If you're a white male and have a nice suit, you can get a job that pays well — and requires no work.
Mitch Moxley, a freelance writer who lives in Beijing, discovered that with just those assets, he could make a living as a fake American businessman. He wrote about his experience in The Atlantic article "Rent A White Guy: Confessions of a Fake Businessman from Beijing."
"Basically, a friend of a friend knew of a company that needed a bunch of white guys to go down and represent the company," Moxley told NPR's Robert Siegel. "I didn't know too much other than it was going to be $1,000 for a week and then we would be put in a hotel. And we'd have to attend a couple of banquets and tour a factory."
Moxley was acting as one of the quality control experts.
"I was told in advance we weren't going to be doing any quality control," he says. "Which is good because none of us actually had any experience in quality control."
Moxley says his guess is that companies hire white people in suits to gain "a bit of credibility." He says that connections in China are important, especially in business.
"It was pretty funny. The whole thing was a little bit surreal," he says. "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."
But Moxley says he and the fake businessmen got the "red-carpet treatment" at the opening ceremony for the factory.
"They had police escorting vehicles to the ceremony," he says. "We were sitting at the front row right before the stage. One guy was supposedly the company director, and he gave a speech in front of 100 or so people. At the end, he was taking pictures with the mayor and being interviewed on local TV."
Moxley says that although his experience was surreal, it's "surprisingly common."
"I've been here for three years, and it was something I heard about soon after I got here. Off the top of my head, I know about six people who have done similar things."