In China, Rent A White Guy For The Right Stuff

Like many, this morning I thought the headline “For Rent in China: White People” was either a joke or a twisted journalistic ploy to get more readers. But after reading this CNN piece on how Chinese businessmen are literally renting white foreigners to pass off as colleagues and partners in order to impress their colleagues and attract new business, I chuckled and then paused. While I understand the power that international connections can have on any business (hi to our global bloggers!!), the fact that in China, the desire is specific. Says the article:

“Face, we say in China, is more important than life itself,” said Zhang Haihua, author of “Think Like Chinese.” “Because Western countries are so developed, people think they are more well off, so people think that if a company can hire foreigners, it must have a lot of money and have very important connections overseas. So when they really want to impress someone, they may roll out a foreigner.”

But not just any foreigner. A White person, and in most instances, a White man. Because as we all know, white + male = success…right? Sadly, that is the equation still in the heads of many in this world when it comes to what it takes to do well. From many boardrooms to bouncers at nightclubs here in New York, the more white guys you have, the better…for business. To the articles credit, most of the white men interviewed in the piece were hired to do more ceremonious things like deliver documents to their “renter” in front of impressionable Chinese colleagues…not deliver yearly company status reports. But it’s all about face.

In college, I once had a professor break what my place in the scheme of things were: “You are a black woman…that’s two strikes against you and be prepared for people to place you behind everyone else…therefore you MUST do better.”  I didn’t full understand what she meant then, but eight years later I have lived her statement repeatedly and had my share of hits and misses, but refuse to have a chip on my shoulder. To me, it’s all a matter of context. I was raised by a successful black single mother, and consistently exposed to successful minority men and women while growing up, but also remember my mom and her fab friends discussing why some minority men and women feel that they need to marry a white person ( for ex. Black Men & White Women/Asian Women and White Men) to crown their achievements. And that was the 80’s.

Moving forward, I wonder if as we discuss cultural globalization, immigration, inclusion and understanding, this “new” world, how long will this “old” way of thinking will still prevail? After all, the goal isn’t to rent a Black or South Asian man next year as that would just be swapping one trend for another. But to be able to say “this is me, this is my company” without feeling the need for racial justification—that could be nice one day.

For rent in China: White people {CNN}

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