Copying China

Contemporary China is more or less equivalent to a vast land of fresh secondary forestation. The good old trees were cut off recently and the new ones have not yet grown up mature enough to provide with the shade. As a result, there is ongoing fierce competition among the endemic plants as well as the invasive ones, all highly eager to grip a share of the soil to insert their roots. Of course there is the forestry staff, who is supposed to take care of this land, and also the one who cut off the old forest and nurture the growth of the new ones. Such “natural competition”, is deemed healthy and facilitating to the rapid reforestation of this vast area and favored by the staff himself as well.

Plant A thought of an idea to more effectively suck nutrients and get sunshine  in order to get rich and strong as much as possible. So Plant A is growing. Plant B and Plant C saw the success of Plant A and felt envious, then they decided to copy what Plant A was doing. It didn’t take long before Plant D, Plant E, Plant F, Plant G, Plant H … also stepped in and mimic the same strategy to nibble the same pie that has already been divided into small pieces. Observing from the sentry, the staff thinks it’s good competition. He just stood there and watch joyfully, believing that soon there is going to be at least one strong plant growing in his forest that could even spread seeds into other neighboring forests…

Of course in this metaphor I am referring those plants as various companies, and the staff as the government. All those copying and mimicking refer to the controversial Chinese copy-cat production, ranging from iPhone of a size of palm to super-fast high-speed trains of 500 tons.

Chinese justification for explicit copy-n-paste

My feeling for such peculiar phenomena in China is rather complicated and mixed. On one hand I do think it unquestionably gives bad reputation for Chinese products and Chinese in general with the image of a copycat who only produces low quality counterfeits, therefore overall making it more difficult to convince other countries and people to trust and even like China. On the other hand I do realize that it is indeed the most efficient way to take over the business and technology lead by grabbing the essences of others’ decades of efforts in research and development and building its own based on them. This, of course, is explicitly cheating in the race of modern civilizations. But the ends justify the means in this case (from a pragmatic point of view), which means if Chinese government is the guardian deity to cater this cheating happen, and China is indeed developing twice the speed of others at the expense of unfairness of other game players who abide by the rule, China should do it. Of course one could argue that those rules themselves are set up the previous game players anyway, the Chinese should definitely be allowed to set up their own game rule. And if this could most efficiently lead to the prosperity of China now and in the short term future, I am glad to see it happening.

However, sometimes it is just a big too much and simply made me embarrassing in explaining and defending for such inconvenient truth, such as some Chinese explicitly built big fake apply store in China to sell iPhone copycats.

My only hope is that China would soon mature itself so that people could be less impetuous and butt-naked in getting rich. Vast economic development is absolutely at the cost of the degradation of public morality and etiquette, at least in this chaotic transitional phase, or as Karl Marx would say: the phase of Primitive Accumulation of Capital.



  1. great blog!

    The only reason china is a copy cat is to make money. There is excess capacity everywhere. Some knockoffs suck, some are very, very good. It is not about technology, but about making money.

    LongGang, Shenzhen.

    1. Agreed. But sometimes making money is not everything. Too explicit in making money would just make everyone else repulsive to you and make no friends in the long run. I am looking forward to a day where China could have its own world-class brands and products that is good for its quality and design, rather than its cheap price.

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