This post was edited by smuffy at 2015-5-6 10:56|
Excerpt from the Diplomat:
It’s commonplace in China to see expats paid exorbitant fees as dancers, singers, musicians, or models, often regardless of talent. I have seen unattractive models, dancers who couldn’t dance, and singers who couldn’t sing. One of my friends was once paid handsomely to play bass at a live concert. The thing was, he didn’t know how to play bass — so they left his instrument unplugged and he plucked at the strings as if he had some clue as to what he was doing. Several of the musicians were also pantomiming to a prerecorded track, but the track had no bass, so my friend was pretending to play a part that didn’t exist. No one in the crowd seemed to notice though, and he was paid more than twice what the Chinese band members, who were actually rather talented musicians, earned.
Whenever I see such spectacles, I can’t help but think of the scene from The Cape Town Affair when a little girl shouts at a monkey, “Dance, monkey, dance!” Some of my friends even refer to such gigs as “monkey shows.”
This practice extends far beyond the “monkey show” world. Generally, white English teachers make considerably more than their bilingual Chinese counterparts and often more than Chinese-Americans too. It doesn’t matter that Chinese-Americans are native English speakers. If parents see an Asian person teaching their children, they often assume the person doesn’t speak English well (even if they themselves speak it too poorly to be able to judge). I once met a Russian who taught at a local English school in Chengdu. He could barely string a dozen words together in English. Nevertheless, he was paid more than four times the average Chinese salary. Naturally, he was white.
Many foreigners simply have far better opportunities in China than they would back home. To be sure, there are many serious and hard-working expats in China. But there are also the others. Semi-functional drunks who “teach” English while earning more than Chinese doctors.
The problem isn’t solely with these foreigners either. The managers and agents hiring these incompetent folk, and paying them their exorbitant and unwarranted salaries, are Chinese. To an extent, one might argue that their salaries compensate for being so far from home or that, matters of racial privilege aside, these individuals have an economic value and are paid accordingly.
That is, foreigners make places more attractive to certain Chinese, as the agent argued in the documentary, and white English teachers are more likely to bring schools business than black or Chinese English teachers, no matter how inexperienced they may be.
Still, the commodification of race is something Chinese employers, parents, and teachers alike should actively seek to better understand, particularly as long as Chinese continue to get the short end of the stick in all this. For all its anti-colonialist rhetoric, in some ways China still bears one of colonialism’s heaviest shackles — namely, a colonial mentality.