Money, Exploitation, and Booth Models in ChinaS

Behind the glitz and glamour of China Joy allegedly lies a deep dark world of exploitation. The models that light up the booths and the cameras on the exhibition floor are both exploiting themselves and are being exploited by a system that is propagated by the very people that China Joy is for: the fans.

There's no denying that China Joy and booth companions go hand in hand. Despite the best government efforts to keep the show from becoming an all out flesh market, this culture of "exploitation" is still ongoing, and it doesn't look like it will change anytime soon.

Recently Sina Tech put up a graphic detailing the selection process and the hidden world behind China Joy's model selections. China Joy is not promoting this; it's an issue with the companies and the culture of expo shows in China, shows that include Chinese auto shows. This issue isn't indicative of all expo shows in China, only shows that tend to be more business to consumer.

The great folks at TechInAsia did an incredible job translating the graphic (below), which explains the hiring process, the payment as well as the type of women who take part in the four day exhibition.

Money, Exploitation, and Booth Models in ChinaS


But behind the selection process that TechInAsia and Sina point out, there is a culture that is slightly more sinister.

Shanghai-based mobile social games developer Pixelmatic shared with Kotaku their experiences in selecting models for a China Joy Booth. They were approached by a Singaporean game design school to select models on the school's behalf.

"We approached an agency and they brought girls to our offices for us to choose from," said Nat Mak, CFO of Pixelmatic. "The girls were shown to us five at a time in a group interview setting."

Mak says they went through more than 50 models altogether until they picked the four they wanted for their booth. The models were chosen for their approachability. They paid about $129 (converted from RMB) a day for each model. The girls weren't professional models.

Money, Exploitation, and Booth Models in ChinaS

According to Pixelmatic, the going rate for China Joy models vary. This coincides with the graphic Sina put out. However Mak also revealed that some models cost a lot more—particularly those who are famous (even slightly famous). The models can get paid even more depending how revealing their outfits are.

"The model from last year, Angela Lee, I think her rate was $3,200 a day," said Mak.

Wang Ye, the manager at the CBS Interactive China/ ZOL online booth said that the industry creates this vicious cycle that exploits young women.

"In this industry, the women are treated poorly. They’re doing this for money so they’re treated like workers and not people," said Wang. "They’re considered a target and a commodity—to be honest, they’re a product."

Not only are the women exploited by the companies, they're exploited by their managers and agents. Wang says that companies and agents work closely together and that this is very much like human trafficking.

According to Wang, a company will contact an agent and the agent will set up the model with the company. The company pays the agent a huge cut of the model's contract and the agent probably throws a kick back to the hiring manager in the company. Wang says in his booth, the women were making about $193 to $240 per day and some of that money was being kicked back to the hiring manager.

Money, Exploitation, and Booth Models in ChinaS

One booth girl that Kotaku spoke with, surnamed Xue, said that she was paid on the lower end of the pay scale, about $80 a day. Xue, who isn't a professional model, wasn't doing China Joy for the money, but rather because she likes having pictures taken of her as well as to check out the festivities. As a booth model, Xue says that the attendees also take advantage of the women.

"There are loads of people who come through China Joy and some of them get a little too close," said Xue. "We can usually brush them off or refuse to take photos but sometimes they get a little too handsy."

"We have very revealing clothes, for instance my uniform has a hole in the chest. When walking through a crowd it's really hard not to be touched inappropriately by someone."

But ultimately this cycle of exploitation of women lies in the culture of China Joy as well as the women themselves. The guys over at Pixelmatic (who once again, did not have a booth but were getting one for an art school) said they were only following what the rest of the industry was doing. "Do as the Romans do. If you’re going to participate in China Joy you participate in the China Rules," said Mak.

Wang himself also says that it's not exactly pure exploitation since the women themselves want to do it. Some women want to be photographed, others want to become famous, some just want to meet other "pretty people". Wang even said that one of the girls in his booth told him she was getting a high from being photographed all day.

"If you're interested in video games in China you don't go to China Joy," said Wang. "China Joy is a show for losers to check out pretty rich boys and beautiful woman."

Top Photo: Frank Yu

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Eric is Beijing based writer and all around FAT man. You can contact him @FatAsianTechie@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @FatAsianTechie.