A Show Of Strength

How often have you come across random folks who email or message you with an amazing business opportunity? Most people don’t fall for such scams. Sometimes, the person contacting you could be a politician or royalty who needs a small sum of money from you to regain his freedom, after which he would share his millions with you. Again, it takes someone quite dumb to fall for this.

In China, a slightly different tactic is employed. It takes a much greater effort, but the success rate has been considerably higher than the standard Nigerian scam. How does it work? Unlike the Nigerian scam which randomly sends out emails to people the scammers know nothing about, the Chinese scammers choose their targets very carefully. It’s usually an incubating business where the owners (ethnic Chinese preferred) are anxious to make their first sales.

The scammers first ask for a quotation from you. After that, they might ask for your fax number and send you an order that make your eyes pop. You are not expecting to sell so much goods in an entire year. But given the fact that this is the most populous country in the world, it’s a plausible proposal. You get excited; very excited.

Of course, you can’t seal any deals over the phone. They understand. That’s why they would then invite you to meet up with them in China. There are numerous office buildings they could rent to impress you, but the main show is the grandiose banquet. You are satiated, impressed, intoxicated and mesmerised by the host’s hospitality and generosity. They even introduce some high-ranking officials (imposters) whom you must know to get the business going. They then ask for an “introductory fee” which is obligatory for a lot of foreign businesses in China. Once you’ve paid up, they become uncontactable.

This is an example of Lesson 29 树上开花. It’s an elaborate scheme to create an illusion to gain your trust that everything is legitimate and above board (by Chinese standards). As these scams are highly specialised, the numbers are not great. The success rate, however, is high.