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Honkies for hire

  • Source: Global Times
  • [23:08 April 01 2010]
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Discriminating employers like a little international flavor

By Zhai Qi

He didn't prepare anything for the meeting that morning. Dressed in an elegant suit and straight-knotted tie, Juergen Kremer walked into the boardroom with his Chinese colleagues.

This was an important meeting. The company that had hired him was hoping to win a contract from a city government in southern China and there were rivals to defeat.

Kremer shook hands with ebullient local officials in the room and introduced himself in English. After they sat down, negotiations kicked off in Chinese. Kremer didn't speak a word during the whole conversation in support of his company, although he could speak perfect Chinese.

"They told me 'Don't say a word. Just pretend you don't understand Chinese,' " Kremer said.

"I just had to show my face. It was a specialist topic and I didn't know anything about it."

His friend called back a couple of days later and asked Kremer to lend a hand at a business meeting. A company had hired him because he had "bigger eyes and a longer nose."

"All the other competitors had a foreigner in their company for the meeting, but this one didn't," Kremer said.

"So they felt it was a disadvantage if others had foreigners but they didn't.

"I don't even know if the other foreigners were really working for other companies or not."

Kremer earned an expenses-free trip to a southern city and 3,000 yuan for two days' work: A hardworking Beijing office clerk makes that in a month.

Kremer helped his friend again later in Beijing. He did a similar job - another successful foreign businessman - but for a different company. Although this might be seen as fraud elsewhere, it's just another marketing strategy in China.

"I want to display the authenticity of my wine to my customers," said Jessica Hu, a wine retailer who claimed her wine was freshly imported from Austria. She had hired two blondes to promote her wine at a reception organized by a luxury condominium in Beijing.

"My target customers are the elite of Beijing," Hu said. "These foreigners illustrate the company's culture well and illustrate the sense of superiority of our products to customers."

The two young Australian women dressed in evening gowns had never been to Austria before and couldn't speak a word of German. That didn't stop them from selling authentic Austrian wine.

Most people in the room didn't speak German anyway and in any case they couldn't care less where the pretty girls came from.

The party was staged in a well-designed swimming pool. Stage lights twinkled in the water as the pianist played Frederic Chopin's Waltz in E Minor. With two Caucasians on prominent display, the Chinese people in the room were just enjoying their Western style party.

No one tried to question the two women, although there was a notice at the door with big Chinese characters: "Taste authentic Austrian wine with an Austrian beauty."

"I think this is great," said a middle-aged man surnamed Feng, picking up a glass of wine. "It's good to have their own people promote their own wine." Feng spoke a little English, but not enough to recognize the difference between Austrian and Australian.

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