American deadbeats are a dime a dozen in Shanghai

By Feng Suwen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/19 17:43:40

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT





Every city has its own unique migrant issues and Shanghai is not excluded. But here, the problem seems to get a bit bipolar. You hear frequent complaints about how waidiren (outsiders) make the city annoyingly crowded and fraught with competition. It is like a Chinese version of the "American melting pot," only that we are all of the same color, ethnicity and nationality.

That is how expats, in particular Caucasians, here are able to stand out so tall and proud. I am an interpreter born and raised in Shanghai. A proud millennial, I have witnessed how rapidly my city has developed and evolved in just the past couple decades. My job offers me a unique chance to spot different types of rapport established between foreigners and Chinese. After all, I am the bridge that connects them.

I have heard kinky stories about how one American got lured into an underground prostitution den and ended up paying a 30,000 yuan ($4,553) ransom to save himself from being beaten up by the gangsters who ran the place. I would not call him a friend, but we are friendly enough so he would tell me the story. He is an alpha male type, yet looks and dresses far from the typical "white trash" that usually visits hookers.

I also know an American here, I'll call him Scott, who studiously brands himself as a successful businessman and used to be the vice-president of a major chamber of commerce in Shanghai. You would have thought holding such a position would make him a responsible person. But in fact he was a total deadbeat.

He hired me as an interpreter four months ago for a project, in which he was involved as a middleman to connect an American company and a local government. Scott expressed high confidence in brokering this deal and said my payment would be issued after the deal was done. Trusting him as a former colleague and a friend, I made an exception for him and accepted this longer-than-usual payment plan.

However, the local government decided to invite a third party into the deal which led to a negotiation deadlock. Scott found out about this, but did not admit it to me until I found out on my own.

He finally told me he could not pay me until September. Two weeks ago he told me to wait until December. When I stressed that a vendor's payment should not be related to the result of the deal, he shouted, "You get paid when we get paid!" before hanging up and completely disappearing from my social media.

I always considered myself to be a tough person, since I have been through quite a number of bizarre events in my life. But nothing is comparable to the Chinese business woman from Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province (let's call her Fanta) who proudly introduced herself to me as a factory owner.

Fanta was in fact the secret lover of the American businessman I mentioned above, but nonetheless attended all of his meetings with him as his "associate" until an outspoken CEO told Scott to his face that "I don't want your sleeping partner to be in any of my meetings!"

Is Scott a stereotypical American capitalist who smartly knows how to maximize his personal interests in China by sleeping with local women? Such conflicts of interest can be interpreted as "cultural differences," but I soon found that other Americans here were trying to disassociate themselves with Scott. One described him as a "low quality person with a dirty mouth who resorts to insulting us when things get tough." Another simply said, "Scott has real honesty issues."

I also gleefully heard words such as "loser," "slimy" and "broke" from friends who had so much to say about Scott. Admittedly, every country has a certain fringe population who may lose their place over time. But what about my own compatriots, like Fanta? How does she get to help a foreigner, who refused to pay his vendor, to bully a fellow female Chinese, with her vile and holier-than-thou attitude, just because she is sleeping with an American loser?

In response to my intention of making my experiences with Scott public, there was one thing in particular she said that astounded me. "We will sue the person who dares to defame Scott. He has such a high social status." I was dumbfounded at first, but then realized she was even of lower quality than that foreign deadbeat.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.



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