While out and about on Saturday we dropped into the Expat Show which was on all last weekend in Shanghai. What we didn’t know was that it was an expat-only affair – only some Chinese allowed.
The very idea of an expat show seems to suggest someone wants to sell their wares at a premium to the foreigners in the city – and it didn’t disappoint. Financial advisers at every turn, expensive holiday deals to flog, overpriced wines to swill, and hospitals offering premium health care and breast enlargements. Also out in force was just about every English-based media platform looking to boost their subscriptions and mingle with previously mentioned services about advertising.
Yes, that as much we expected.
What we didn’t expect was the story that only expats were allowed into the venue. The story, from a reliable source, says people on the door were screening entrants based on ethnicity and some Chinese citizens were being refused entry. This caused some issue with locals who were trying to enter – and rightly so. Expats who have been to the same event in previous years say this has happened before.
According to a sponsor the event organisers were screening people to make sure they had a “connection to the show” and weren’t just there to get the freebies or harvest the useless brochures for recycling. Essentially, people like us who were clearly there to seize as much free schwag as possible.
The difference? I’m a whitey. Whiteys are allowed to be sponges.
Another attendee allegedly saw a woman argue with a hostess on the door because she could not prove with a passport that she wasn’t actually a Chinese citizen but an expat. Meanwhile, this attendee saw (white) friends using fake aliases and weren’t even checked for ID.
To me this just doesn’t sit right at all. It screams of racial segregation and the bad old days of colonialism. But, as others have pointed out, maybe I over-reacting because the exhibitors want to make sure the ‘right’ audience get their freebies? Some exhibitors may get angry, for example, if all their pamphlets are being tossed straight to the city’s recyclers.
As a reader, I’ll let you decide what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in China. It seems moral indicators are a constantly swaying pendulum for many expats.
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