ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
While executions fall in China, business continues to rise. And there is opportunity there even if you're a Westerner with no skills. We read in The Atlantic about a job that pays well and requires no work. You just have to be white, male and have a nice suit.
Mitch Moxley, who lives in Beijing, discovered that with just those assets -which I suppose some cynics would argue have always been the keys to success -he could work as a fake American businessman.
And Mitch Moxley joins us now from Beijing. Explain to us, tell us about how you ended up being hired as a fake American businessman?
Mr. MITCH MOXLEY (Writer, "Rent A White Guy: Confessions of a Fake Businessman from Beijing"): Sure, well thanks for having me. Basically, a friend of a friend knew of a company that needed a bunch of white guys to go down and represent the company. I didn't know too much it other than it was going to be $1,000 for a week, and that we'd be put up in a hotel. And we'd have to attend a couple of banquets and tour a factory. And that was sort of all I knew going into it.
We were supposedly quality control experts, but I was told in advance that we weren't actually going to be doing any quality control, which is good because none of us actually had any experience in quality control.
SIEGEL: But I gather that if you are a Chinese business, it's very impressive to show that you have a bunch of Western-looking, European-looking guys whom you can turn out.
Mr. MOXLEY: You know, in China, connections are really important, in business especially. I can't really speak for the company but my guess is that, you know, if you have a bunch of white people - European-looking, American-looking people in suits representing your company, that it adds a bit of face, a bit credibility to the company.
SIEGEL: Well, how did it feel to be just another pretty white face at a Chinese business gathering?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MOXLEY: How did it feel? It felt - you know, it was pretty funny. The whole thing was a little bit surreal. We were down there and were being paraded around a half-built factory, and we had to sit in temporary offices for the rest of the day, not really doing anything. You know, half the time we were just kind of sleeping at our desks or reading magazines.
But, you know, we certainly got the red-carpet treatment. During the opening ceremony for the factory that we were there for, they had red carpet set up. They had police escorting vehicles to the ceremony. We were sitting at the front row right before the stage, and one guy in our group was supposedly the company director. And he gave a speech in front of, you know, a hundred or so people that were there. And at the end, he was taking pictures with the mayor and being interviewed on local TV.
SIEGEL: Now, do you think this was a one-off experience or do your friends in Beijing actually find the rare but, you know, not unique offer to go be a fake American businessman for someone?
Mr. MOXLEY: You know, 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.
SIEGEL: Of course, jobs like this raise the interesting question: Exactly what is the difference between just showing up and walking around a plant somewhere in China, and actually doing your job there?
Mr. MOXLEY: All I know is that we certainly weren't quality control experts and we weren't doing any job that was of any use.
SIEGEL: Well, Mitch Moxley, thanks a lot for talking with us about this.
Mr. MOXLEY: My pleasure.
SIEGEL: That's Mitch Moxley, a freelance writer based in Beijing. His piece in The Atlantic is called "Rent A White Guy: Confessions of a Fake Businessman from Beijing."
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