‘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:

Unintentionally terrifying Chinese democracy poster

To find out what “democracy is a belief” is maybe intended to mean, and how Chinese communists have the gall to promote “rule of law” and “democracy”, see Joann Pittman’s In Democracy We Trust. (She blogs faster than me, and beat me to the punch with the Princess Bride video.)

Democracy is a Belief
What the heil?
It’s only February, but here’s my submission for Chinglish of the Year — Shangdong Art Institute Media College students’ “I Speak for Socialist Core Values” posters. Click each Chinese word to view its poster, mouseover for pronunciation:

富强 (prosperity)
民主 (democracy)
文明 (civility)
和谐 (harmony)
自由 (freedom)
平等 (equality)
公正 (justice)
法治 (rule of/by law)
爱国 (patriotism)
敬业 (dedication to one’s work)
诚信 (integrity)
友善 (friendship)

I hope it’s abundantly clear that in Chinese Communist Party-land, these words — freedom, democracy, rule of law — don’t mean the same thing that they do in the West. It has nothing to do with Chinglish or mistranslation; they’re using different definitions.

Below are two current propaganda posters from our neighbourhood bulletin boards. Mouseover the Chinese for translation and pronunciation:


社会主义核心价值观
社会主义核心价值观当代中国价值追求精神
Socialism Core Values
Socialism Core Values are the guiding principle of the spirit that contemporary Chinese values are seeking.


社会主义核心价值观富强民主文明和谐自由平等公正法治爱国敬业诚信友善.
Socialism Core Values: prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, rule of/by law, patriotism, dedication to one’s work, integrity, friendship.

With each new Chinese “president” (read: Chairman, as in “Chairman Mao”) we get a whole new raft of propaganda. 2015, aka the Year of the Goat, is shaping up to be China’s most ideological year since Mao (and the NYT and the China Daily aren’t wasting any time). Under Chairman Xi the emphasis moves further away from Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents, Hu Jintao’s Scientific Development, Harmonious Society, and Stability Maintenance to the Chinese Dream, the New Normal, and Socialist Core Values.

P.S. – Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. It’s a heil of a good pun…

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun Chinese propaganda posters!

“Weird Al” Yankovic is promoting his latest album Mandatory Fun with two Chinese propaganda poster spoofs. One poster has Chinese. To find out what it says, mouseover the Chinese characters here or scroll down:

没有穿内裤

“I’m not wearing underwear”
没有穿内裤
wǒ méiyǒu chuān nèikù

And here’s the other one:

Click the images for the original source.