Most white people in Mainland China have misrepresented themselves at one time or another — or have at least been given the royal treatment without any probing questions into their backgrounds or credentials or even the assurance that they can string three coherent sentences together in any language, much less Mandarin Chinese.
This is nothing new.
Some of us aren’t qualified at whatever it is that we get paid to do. And yet here we are, posing as “digital specialists” and “teachers” and “creative consultants” and “journalists” and whatever else.
This is also nothing new.
It should come as little surprise, then, that one Zhao Xiyong (赵锡永) materialized in Yunnan, presumably in his trusty Santana, and one-upped all of us scheming shysters by convincing provincial officials that he was the head of the country’s State Council Research Office, reported the Telegraph on Monday.
For three years, Zhao kept himself busy — mainly typical government stuff like visiting vegetable patches, giving speeches and leading delegations – until the jig was up and he disappeared, presumably in an aromatic cloud of black hair dye and cigarette smoke while cackling and twirling a singular mole hair.
This is really something.
“We have recently received reports that Zhao Xiyong is pretending to be the head of the State Council Research Office and an official of vice-minister level,” read a terse report issued by the State Council on March 8, presumably before several heads rolled down the corridor. “He does not work for the State Council and no research team has ever been sent to Yunnan province.”
Zhao faces up to a decade in prison if found, which he probably won’t be.
“Why was it so easy for a Chinese citizen to pose as a senior Communist Party official?” asked WaPo’s Max Fisher before hitting all of the perfunctory talking points that reporters painfully must use when they have to explain China to people who don’t live in China: sprawling bureaucracy, public apathy — “天高皇帝远” and all of that.
Folks here in China, instead of expressing bewilderment, should be asking each other, “Why can’t you be more like Zhao Xiyong?”
We feel as if the imposter should be given a medal — or at least given his own national holiday.
How about March 5?
Lei who? That’s what we thought.
In the spirit of Zhao Xiyong Day, here are five quick ways toward the path to duplicity in Mainland China.
Spice up that CV
Familiarize yourself with high-octane words like “synergy,” “results-oriented” and “strategery.” If pressed during an interview or business meeting, just repeat variations of the above alongside a series of impressive hand gestures and a winsome smile. Issue compliments and/or lie when necessary. Don’t smoke? Start.
Get friendly with euphemisms
You’re not unemployed—you’re in transition. On sabbatical. Sanitation engineer. Business specialist. Part-time digital strategist. International communications expert. Advanced bilingual linguistic consultant specialist. Americanologist. Put all of these phrases on fancy-looking business cards and outfit yourself with a spring-loaded hip holster, Sinonaut.
Walk the walk…
Crisp button-up white shirt, black slacks and a neat haircut. No tie. Lose the neckbeard. It may not be fashionable, but it’s effective camouflage. In general, stop looking like a pretentious hipster trying to express individuality through your appearance. You’re not special, snowflake. Blend into the crowd. Don’t forget the holster.
…And talk the talk
You don’t need 3,000 characters. How about 50? Just memorize the common ones in love songs — words like “爱” and “太阳” and “我” or “赵锡永” — and the next time you’re at a KTV session, point them out as they whiz by on the television and write them on a cocktail napkin. Everyone will think you’re great and you’ll get the lucrative contract that you’ve been angling for.
Act like you know
Be confident — arrogant, even. It’s contagious. Master the art of spin and never admit when you’re wrong. Remember, even when you’re wrong, you’re right. And when someone else is right, they’re actually wrong.
Now stop wasting your potential, goddamn you, and go out there and lead some visiting delegations.
Pete DeMola is a writer and creative consultant in Hong Kong. He tweets @pmdemola.
How are you like Zhao Xiyong? Feel free to add your own tips below.