Counterfeiting is merely shanzhai

Counterfeiting is merely shanzhaiMost of the counterfeit shoes are clever imitations of Nikes. This one is not.
In the United States, most of the goods that are counterfeited are worn on our feet. I found a great New York Times article that goes inside a fake factory in China and shows us how it’s done:

Lin has spent most of his adult life making sneakers, though he only entered the counterfeit business about five years ago. "What we make depends on the order," Lin said. "But if someone wants Nikes, we’ll make them Nikes."

By the mid-1990s, a new brand of factory, specializing in fakes, began copying authentic Nike, Adidas, Puma and Reebok shoes. Counterfeiters played a low-budget game of industrial espionage, bribing employees at the licensed factories to lift samples or copy blueprints. Shoes were even chucked over a factory wall, according to a worker at one of Nike’s Putian factories. It wasn’t unusual for counterfeit models to show up in stores before the real ones did.

Inside the Knockoff-Tennis-Shoe Factory, The New York Times>>

What I find most interesting is not the actual counterfeiting, but the Chinese cultural attitude behind it. Counterfeiting is part of a "shanzhai" culture, which literally means "mountain fortress," where bandits in old Chinese stories fought against the prevailing corrupt power, sort of like Robin Hood.

Shanzhai refers to a kind of pride in being a justifiable outlaw who works outside the system with shrewdness and ingenuity. It’s similar to the Western idea of outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde being heroic because they’re fighting the system, or a P. T. Barnum being admired because he fooled people in a clever way.

But shanzhai, just like crooks and con-men, has a darker side, and to some, shanzhai means shoddily made knockoffs and thievery.

This has been happening in the tech industry for a while, and there’s an argument that shanzhai in China and other countries leads to innovation that is stifled in the U. S. because of our strict intellectual property laws. (See the article and comments at Bunnie Studios>>)

Inside the Knockoff-Tennis-Shoe Factory, The New York Times>>
Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Rebellion in China, The Wall Street Journal>>
Shanzhai, Wikipedia>>
The Dike shoe photo is from Shanghai Ginger Guy>>

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