Chinese companies ‘rent’ white foreigners

Farrar, L. (2010). “Chinese companies ‘rent’ white foreigners.” CNN. Retrieved on 3 October, 2010:

In China, white people can be rented. Chinese companies are willing to pay high prices for fair-faced foreigners to join them as fake employees or business partners. To have a few foreigners hanging around means a company has prestige, money and the increasingly crucial connections — real or not — to businesses abroad.

The requirements for these jobs are simple:

  1. Be white.
  2. Do not speak any Chinese, or really speak at all, unless asked.
  3. Pretend like you just got off of an airplane yesterday.

Those who go for such gigs tend to be unemployed actors or models, part-time English teachers or other expats looking to earn a few extra bucks. Often they are jobs at a second- or third-tier city, where the presence of pale-faced foreigners is needed to impress local officials, secure a contract or simply to fulfill a claim of being international.

Occasionally, these jobs can go awry. A company can hire a white foreigner, swindle millions of yuan out of their clients , and after police shows up tell that the white guy was the one really in charge,

White women are also a hot commodity, sometimes to pose as phony foreign girlfriends.

Conceptual Design:

Local companies dominate the middle and low-end market in China. They understand the needs of the local market and government policies. But they lack quality control, professional management, and do not support international standards. Foreign products are perceived as superior to local products.

If we design a product for Chinese market, we could use the same techniques described in this article. Of course, there is no need to lie to customers. Such methods can be used mainly for promotion.

While US companies hire graphic designers and super models to advance our goals, the Chinese do another exhibition of power. So a product for Chinese market will look more respectful if we use such power communication tools, like putting white people’s photographs on advertisements and packaging.  We can tell the customers that company’s headquarters are located abroad. Invite people from abroad to make product presentations.

Chinese economy is becoming stronger in the recent years; this could lead to changes in how they display and perceive power.  Maybe in the next 20 years we will have to hire Asian foreigners to do the same thing for us 🙂

Interaction Design:

To make product successful in Chinese market we can:

  1. Partner with a well-respected company
  2. Hire foreigners to make company look more “international”
  3. Design ads with white people on them
  4. Invite foreign speakers
  5. Make products conform to more rigorous international standards (and tell customers about it)
  6. Design products with environmental protection and energy efficiency in mind. (Local manufacturers don’t care much about it)
  7. Take the time to build strong relationships with Chinese partners
  8. Become recognized in the industry

We can use other tools of power display, but they need to be understood by its audience. Different cultures do it different.

Interface Design:

I see several general ways of using ideas from this article in interface design.

  1. Put white people or foreigners in general on ads
  2. Put white people on packaging
  3. Create innovative design, cutting-edge western technology
  4. Inform the customers that our products are eco-friendly and approved by a well-respected western environmental protection agency
  5. Market our products as conforming to “higher” western and international standards of quality
  6. Build specialized product versions for Chinese market  that  conform to their “interface”