With the Chinese manufacturing industry having been at the heart of the global economy for decades, few of us are surprised to find that much of what we have in our homes and offices comes from China. But while China chooses to engage with the global economy in this aspect, they are often less keen on embracing and enforcing international copyright legislation. As the world has become ever more interconnected, stories of incredibly detailed or downright blatant copies of Western goods and brands have made their way out of China on an almost regular basis: here are some of the craziest.
1. The Fake Museum
While most people associate the phrase ‘Chinese fakes’ with phony electronics, consumers are not the only ones targeted by counterfeiters. In July 2013, a museum in Hebei province was closed down after it was discovered that it had been filled with forgeries. The owner, who reportedly received government funding for part of his venture, was alleged to have spent millions of dollars on purchasing exhibits and constructing the museum building itself. One notable fake that was uncovered was purported to be a vase from the famous Qing dynasty, despite the fact that it was decorated with images of cartoon characters of the 20th Century. The defiant owner nevertheless claimed that it was not possible to prove that the exhibits were fake!
2. Apple Stores
Fake Apple products aren’t a new or surprising discovery in China. But when BirdAbroad blog found what appeared to be a genuine Apple store at first glance, but turned out to be an almost perfect fake the post went viral worldwide for its audacity and near flawless fakery. Even the employees thought they were working for Apple. It’s hard to believe that it was way back in 2001 that Apple released the iPod, prompting the development of a series of products which would dominate the handheld electronics industry until only recently. Launched in the same year was the Apple Store, a one stop shop for all your iProduct needs, the success of which was in no small part due to that of the iPod. In China, at least 22 outlets bearing the Apple logo, complete with Genius bars and helpful blue-shirted employees were found to have been completely fake, set up by counterfeiters to sell their iFakes.
3. Fake Monuments
Admittedly not fakes in the sense that they are attempting to pass them off as the real thing, China is nevertheless going through a fad of building replicas of famous monuments and buildings from around the world. Wuxi and Fuyang, two otherwise generally unremarkable cities, are home to full size clones of the U.S Capitol building, though the Chinese flag flying out front would be something of a giveaway if anyone somehow thought they were looking at the real thing.
Leaning tower of Beijing
The Eiffel tower of Hangzhou
The US Capitol building:
London’s Tower Bridge: Suzhou China
And a nice clone of Stonehenge in the UK:
Of course, everything is bigger in China, so it’s a natural step from fake monuments to…
4. Fake Cities
Brickwork streets, black gaslamp-style lampposts, Winston Churchill statues; if you didn’t know better, you could almost imagine that you were in a small English country town. Well, if it weren’t for the fact that these are some of the features of ‘Thames Town’, just outside China’s financial centre, Shanghai. Similarly, in Gunagdong province, there is a complete replica of the Austrian village of Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the original, not the copy). Some commentators have likened these ‘real yet fake’ towns to the TV set-city, Seahaven, from the movie The Truman Show, although at least the visitors here are free to leave and aren’t being filmed round the clock (well, not for TV anyway!)
5. Insurance Fraud (By Faking Death)
The concept of faking one’s own death in order to claim on a life insurance policy is not an especially new one, nor are examples of it absent from Western culture (search for ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin and you’ll see what I mean), but one recent and particularly outrageous example came from Hubei province in early August 2013. As the sheet-covered body of a local street vendor was paraded through the streets of the city of Wuhan, several hundred locals converged on the scene in outrage at claims that the man had been beaten to death by local officials, and joined the small group of street vendors present in their demands for severe financial compensation. However, after just two hours, the ‘body’ suddenly rose, grabbed a bottle of water and proclaimed that it was too hot and he could no longer keep up his charade. The crowd dispersed, and the man was arrested for disturbing public order.
6. Fake (And Cheap!) Cars
The automobile business is a global one, with carmakers everywhere keen to tap into every corner of the global marketplace. However, there is often one major obstacle in the way of Western manufacturers getting a foothold in large Asian countries like India or China: price. In China, this is where shanzhai (fake) cars come in. In 2008, the iconic Mini Cooper went on sale in China, except it didn’t – the product available was actually a Lifan 320, but the only distinguishing feature between the two was the addition of rear doors. Oh, and the pricetag – a brand new 320 went on sale at the equivalent of $7,500, around 33% of what a Mini Cooper would set you back in the U.S. or Europe.
Lifan 320 – Mini Cooper
Mercedes CLK – BYD S8
Shuanghuan Noble – Smart Car
Geely GE – Definitely NOT a Rolls Royce Phantom!
7. Fake Fast Food, Fake Stores
If you’ve seen anything about Chinese fakery on the web, you’ve probably seen a picture of fake Pizza Hut, fake KFC, fake Haagen-Dazs – well, you might be surprised to know that these were all on the same Nanjing street, and far from an accident. Turns out that a local property developer was trying to liven up one particular section of the commercial district, and decided that an area containing Buckstar Coffee, KFG, Pizza Huh and Haagon Bozs would be a great way to improve margins. Unfortunately for the developer, pictures of the fake stores went viral, gaining international notoriety; in response, local authorities swooped on the infringing eateries and shut them down for good.
Check out these genuine looking Western brands in China:
Starbucks – China Style:
KFC Anyone? The Colonel is looking a little hungry though…
And an entire amusement Park copy of Disneyland:
Hey man, nice threads. Yeah I shop at Dolce and Banana in Shanghai.