Westerners hired as fake businessmen in China

Posing as a Western businessman can be a lucrative sideline in China, a journalist from Regina says.

Posing as a Western businessman can be a lucrative sideline in China, a journalist from Regina says.

Mitch Moxley is currently based in Beijing, where he writes for various publications.

He was also hired several months ago as a "quality control" expert with a U.S. company in China's Shandong province.

Moxley says a friend of a friend told him he knew of a Chinese firm that needed some foreigners to "basically dress up in suits" and be seen at one of their events.

"I guess if you have some foreigners representing your company, it gives you some extra credibility," Moxley told CBC News by phone from Beijing. "We were supposedly with an American company that was managing a project."

Moxley said he later looked up the name of the U.S. company and discovered it did not exist. He had no quality control experience and ended up not doing anything relating to that field, he said.

"We were just hired suits," he said.

'I just had to look pretty'

The duties he was given were not strenuous, he said. He had to show up at a factory in the industrial city of Dongying, take a tour, and sit with other ersatz businessmen at a press event.

One of the men in Moxley's group was called the "company director," complete with business cards. He walked out on the red carpet, made a speech, shook hands with the mayor and posed for the TV cameras, he said.

When he was done, confetti blasted from the stage and fireworks started popping out in the field beside the factory, Moxley said.

"That was it, that was the job," Moxley said. "I just had to look pretty."

The rest of the time, Moxley and his colleagues sat in temporary offices, read magazines, slept and hung out, he said.

Moxley left early and received $500 for a few days of work, while some of the others picked up $1,000.

Moxley, who later wrote about his experiences for Atlantic Monthly in an article titled "Rent a White Guy," said he had heard about fake businessman jobs when he first arrived in China three years ago, and he had always wanted to try it.

While not actively looking for similar gigs, he'd do it again if one fell into his lap, he said.

So would many others, apparently, he said.

"I've had about 30 emails from people around the world asking me to hook them up with fake businessman jobs."