Chinese realtors are dressing up random foreigners as fake pseudo-celebrities, as part of urgent efforts to offload property amidst trying market conditions.
As China’s building mania continues to rage unabated, real estate companies are resorting to novel measures to expedite the sale of an ever-increasing backlog of unoccupied properties.
Chief amongst them is enlisting random foreign nationals to pose as fake pseudo-celebrities, and thus confer real estate projects with the imprimatur of international involvement.
A new documentary film directed by David Borenstein entitled Chinese Dreamland follows the travails of foreigners roped into these duplicitous schemes.
The films show hapless expats being rented out as performers or mere faces for real estate promotional purposes, and “herded around like cattle” during sales activities.
The only qualifications required for serving as a pseudo-celebrity property spruiker in today’s China would appear to be white or black skin and an exotic foreign appearance. Canny marketing experts can then craft a fake celebrity identity to tout before oblivious Chinese consumers.
Borenstein himself went undercover as a fake musician named “Mr. Suky” to help flog real estate projects to potential investors on behalf of developers.
Other expats in film asked to pose as country singers, medical doctors, athletes or Korean pop stars, when in reality they might be ESL teachers or even just backpacking tourists.
According to Borenstein, realtors in China need all the marketing assistance they can get, given the huge volume of residential property that have been accumulated during the country’s post-GFC building boom, much of which is now lying idle and unused.
Borenstein notes that China has used more concrete in two years than the USA did throughout the entire 20th century, while the construction boom has seen the creation of more houses than those found in whole of Japan during just the first decade of the 2st century alone.
This profligate investment spree could have dire aftereffects for the Chinese economy, with widespread reports of a gross oversupply of real estate, tumbling prices for listed property concerns, and the disturbing phenomena of unoccupied “ghost towns.”
Over the past several years China has become notorious for the construction of huge ghost cities in remote parts of the country, as local governments strive to prop up flagging growth by means of gratuitous stimulus spending.
China recently posted its seventh consecutive month of declining average new home prices. Any downturn in the real estate sector could have dire flow-on effects for large swathes of the national economy.
The property market comprises roughly 15 per cent of economic activity in China, and is vital to the health of around 40 other industries in the country, including building materials, construction and household goods.
This in turn means that Australia’s economic health is heavily affected by the performance of China’s property sector, given the country’s increasing dependence upon the Middle Kingdom’s market.
Chris Richardson of Deloitte Access Economic noted in April that even a modest slowdown in China’s economy could lead to a recession in Australia, remarking that “if China sneezes, Australia will catch pneumonia.”