Chinese entrepreneurs are renting random white guys to pretend to be visiting businessmen, and to lend an aura of general Being Connected to the West to business meetings, conferences and receptions:
And so I became a fake businessman in China, an often lucrative gig for underworked expatriates here. One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image–particularly, the image of connection–that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: "Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face…"
For the next few days, we sat in the office swatting flies and reading magazines, purportedly high-level employees of a U.S. company that, I later discovered, didn't really exist. We were so important, in fact, that two of the guys were hired to stay for eight months (to be fair, they actually then received quality-control training).
"Lots happening," Ken told me. "We need people for a week every month. It'll be better next time, too. We'll have new offices." He paused before adding: "Bring a computer. You can watch movies all day."