Video sheds light on Chinese companies using white faces to sell property

Global Business

Image from David Borenstein’s mini-documentary for the New York times.

Film and television director David Borenstein’s video about how Chinese real estate developers hire foreigners — particularly those with white features — to pose as celebrities has elevated conversations about how Chinese people view race, class, and nationality.

His 7-minute mini-documentary or “Op-doc” was published in the New York Times Opinion page Tuesday and shows how developers hire firms to recruit foreigners at bars and clubs to pose at events to boost flagging property sales.

“There are many places in China, especially in remote places, where the houses are really overvalued,” a real estate agent from the outskirts of Chongqing told the New York Times. “But there is this trick: make it international.”

Image from David Borenstein's mini-documentary for the New York times.

Image from David Borenstein’s mini-documentary for the New York times.

“It’s a pretty widespread belief if they get a foreigner to perform, the whole thing is bumped up to another level… It’s no longer some remote building built by an unknown developer. It becomes an international city of the future,” the real estate agent added.

The agent said clients can pick what type of foreigner they want, down to their nationalities and skin colors.

“Now, it is true that the price of white people is expensive,” the same agent told Borenstein. “But it makes the place feel classier.”

If a client can’t afford a white foreigner, he or she is advised to go with a black actor instead who have “a very open personality, yet are quite cheap – about 1,000 yuan ($160).”

Borenstein wrote that while “it is impossible to gauge foreigners’ effect on property sales, the widespread nature of the phenomenon suggests that it works, at least in the eyes of real estate developers.”

Story compiled with information from China Daily and the New York Times.