There is much malign and vitriol (and perhaps deservedly so) regarding knockoff products in China. In Chinese, there’s a word for these products: “Shanzhai (山寨）.” Previously a word spoken with derision, a new generation of Chinese trading on the global market now see the shanzhai spirit as one to be admired.
Not only are there knock off Prada bags and iPhones (like the humorously and deliberately misspelled “iOrgane”), there are shanzhai dogs (see picture) & shanzhai t.v. shows.
To the entrepreneurial American spirit, a fake good is nothing short of forgery and flat-out stealing. However, the Chinese have come to see a certain pride in the pirated goods they produce.
A blogger recently posted a good article about this phenomenon, which has caused me to rethink my own views of invention vs. innovation, and particularly international copyright laws. After all, what here on earth is truly new? Here are some interesting bits:
In its contemporary context, shanzhai is a historical allusion to the legends that dwelled within. One such legend is the 12th-century story of the 108 bandits of Song Jiang. … A friend of mine described Song Jiang as a sort of Robin Hood meets Che Guevara; Song Jiang was a rebel and a soldier of fortune, yet selfless and kind to those in need.
Their ability to not just copy, but to innovate and riff off of designs is very significant. They are doing to hardware what the web did for rip/mix/burn or mashup compilations. The Ferrari toy car meets mobile phone, or the watch mixed with a phone (complete with camera!) are good examples of mashup: they are not a copies of any single idea but they mix IP from multiple sources to create a new heterogeneous composition, such that the original source material is still distinctly recognizable in the final product. Read the rest here…