‘Rent-a-Foreigner’ will make you cringe like you’ve never cringed before

Prepare to flinch. This ‘Rent-a-Foreigner’ 7-minute opinion-documentary from the New York Times may seem unbelievable, but as someone once said: April Fool’s Day is really hard in China because so much is so plausible. And I’m telling you as someone who’s lived in 2nd and 3rd-tier Chinese cities for six years: they aren’t making this stuff up.

Mainland Chinese have this incredible capacity, on occasion, to tell it straight, to just name a thing or situation for what it is:

The real value of a house or any product doesn’t really matter. As long as there is a good image, people will be willing to buy. For the time being, the image has become the reality.

It’s painful, but oddly refreshing — like picking off a big scab that you should have left alone when you were in elementary school.

I can’t embed the video so you’ll have to click here. My favourite bits are the dialogue with a potential client at 1:53:

“We have high-, middle- and low-grade ones. Now it is true that the price of white people is expensive, but it makes the place feel classier. If you truly can’t squeeze out the funds but still want to project an international atmosphere, I suggest using black people. They have a very open personality, yet are quite cheap.”

“Do you have any Indians?”

“We would need to look for them… we use them very rarely.”

“If we use them would they be cheaper?”

“About the same as blacks.”

And then the woman’s glance at 6:14 — I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Rent a White Guy
You might wonder: Who are these white boy expats doing these “jobs”? The expat scene is China is kind of… special, especially among the “English teacher” crowd. I’m not saying all English teachers are… a certain way… but I’ve certainly met a few who fit the stereotype.
Rent a ForeignerAnd sometimes, the line between being an “English teacher” and being a “rent-a-foreigner” is very difficult to find.

In the same vein is Mamahuhu’s Being Black in China (Youku / YouTube):

VICE News has a similar report in the works: Rent a White Guy: Sneak Peek

Aside from English teaching and some random charity stuff, this is the closest I’ve come to renting out my white face in China:

For us these days, most of the overt racial attention we get revolves around our kids:

14,286

The other night I was sharing beer-in-a-bag (), peanuts and tiny dried shrimps with our neighbourhood’s convenience store owner to celebrate his son’s 100th day outside the womb (百岁). He said his family is supposed to pay RMB 100,000 as a fine for having a second child in violation of China’s One Child Policy (计划生育政策). We estimated that works out to USD 14,286, but it’s actually higher: 16,141.92 USD (we calculated at 7元/$1 at the time). But there are a couple details that make this extra interesting.

First, $16,142 is a relatively low fine. These fines are calculated according to the father’s hukou (户口), his registered place of residence, not their current location. He’s from a village, so he has a rural hukou, and that means his fine is less. A Qingdao city native would be fined more than double. (China’s hukou system has a long historical tradition, functioning to control population mobility, i.e. keeping peasants tied to their land and out of the cities.)

Second, because they’re officially classed as “peasants”, if their first child had been female then they wouldn’t be fined for having a second child. But because their first child was a boy, a second child is not allowed. Urbanites aren’t afforded this concession.

Third, they don’t intend to pay. In their situation at least, their kid still gets a hukou and can access social services like school and health care even though they haven’t paid. He says they get calls every day badgering them to pay, but they’re betting that in a year or two China will further loosen the One Child Policy, so they’re going to drag their feet as much as possible. Last year China eased the One Child Policy slightly in response to the looming demographic time-bomb it created (disproportionately large elderly population); couples where one spouse is a single child may have two children. He says he thinks they’ll loosen it further, effectively exempting them from their fine.

One Child Policy fine
Our neighbour’s One Child Policy fine, when we converted it to USD.
More encounters with China’s One Child Policy:

Anti-Japanese bumper sticker, Qingdao, China

anti_Japanese_Qingdao_China
Anti-Japanese stuff, usually bumper stickers, aren’t uncommon in Qingdao, but neither are they something we see often.
We’ve come across similar ones before: “Japanese and dog no nearing”

And then of course there’s also Our neighbourhood’s anti-Japanese restaurant.