White people who live in some parts of China enjoy a special type of “white privilege” not even seen in America or other Western countries.
In certain areas of the country, Caucasians are reportedly hired for work dubbed as “face jobs” or “monkey jobs” where all they need to do is be white. Companies, which would hire foreigners to attend business events or other functions, are said to put a premium price on white skin.
One industry, which has a huge demand for rent-a-whites is said to be real estate, according to a mini-documentary released by The New York Times. Foreigners are hired to pretend to be occupants of apartment complexes to give it a cosmopolitan appeal. Real estate firms will even pay such foreigners to become a fake popular celebrity or musician to raise the property’s market value.
“In China, if you’re from the West, you can be anything without any knowledge or education,” one foreign “actor” told The New York Times. “We just show up to give them a white face.”
The Times Filmmaker David Borenstein, who made the film “Rent-a-Foreigner in China,” told Vice of his own experience in the thriving phenomenon:
“My first encounter with the rent-a-foreigner industry is something that’s quite common for foreigners in China. A ‘foreigner agent’ flagged me down while I was walking down the street. He later offered me gigs that mainly involved pretending to play instruments over backing tracks with other random foreigners. MCs at the events would often introduce us as “famous American bands.”
Borenstein noted that the practice left talented, dedicated Chinese bands without any gigs while foreigners who can barely play on stage get paid good money.
Beijing-based freelance writer Mitch Moxley, was reportedly paid $1,000 a month to take the role of a fake white entrepreneur.
“It was pretty funny. The whole thing was a little bit surreal,” Moxley told NPR. “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.”
According to Moxley, his fake businessmen role even got him a “red-carpet treatment” at the factory’s opening event.
“They had police escorting vehicles to the ceremony,” he said. “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.”
Actor Jonathan Zatkin, who lives in Beijing, told CNN that he once posed as the vice president of an Italian jewelry company and pretended that he has been doing business with a Chinese jewelry firm for many years.
“I was up on stage with the mayor of the town, and I made a speech about how wonderful it was to work with the company for 10 years and how we were so proud of all of the work they had done for us in China,” said Zatkin. “They put up a big bandstand and the whole town was there and some other local muckety-mucks.”
Such “white monkey” job postings are easy to identify, according to EChinaCities. Some tell-tell signs that Caucasians will be used as props are as follows:
Often poorly-worded job ads written in English
Jobs focusing on looks and requires no experience
It says “Caucasian only”
It has a height or weight requirement
Experts believe that such phenomenon is caused by a popular Chinese belief that businesses with foreign employees are more successful. The demand has increased over the years, providing some extra cash for part-time English teachers, unemployed actors or other expats.