Shanzhai culture (revised)

Something with a high degree of moral connectivity as well as utility: Shanzhai culture. It’s also an example of the dematerialization of global culture: only informational flows are necessary to maintain it. The ACTA is nominally aimed at it. Interesting that it is in a “coopetition” relationship with the branded goods that it imitates, but there’s more depth to it than that. Shanzhai includes a certain element of parody, as well as selection; not all high value consumer goods are chosen for imitation. Knowledge of what is popular to imitate can provide good intelligence about consumer preferences. Recall that the big record companies, for example, pay certain companies to monitor file-sharing networks, so they can get real-time information about what is popular.

From wikipedia:

Shanzhai (simplified Chinese: 山寨; pinyin: shānzhài) refers to Chinese knockoff and pirated brands and goods, particularly electronics. Literally “mountain village” or “mountain stronghold,” the term refers to the mountain stockades of warlords or thieves, far away from official control. “Shanzhai” can also be stretched to refer to people who are lookalikes, low-quality or improved goods, as well as things done in parody.

According to the “Modern Chinese Dictionary”, (“现代汉语词典”), “Shanzhai” can stand for two meanings: 1.a fenced place in the forest. 2. Villages in the mountain that has stockade houses. Historically, “shanzhai” is sometimes used as a metaphor to describe bandits who oppose and evade the corrupted authority to perform deeds they see justified. One example of such bandits is the story of “ Outlaws of the Marsh” (水浒传) [1]
The use of “Shanzhai” to refer to knock-off products comes from Cantonese slangs, in which “shanzhai factory” means ill-equipped, low-end and family-based factory. After the open-door policy, factories of such kind started operating in little wood houses located on the hills around the Cantonese area, so people started referring to them as “shanzhai factory” and their products as “shanzhai product” [2]
Another account of the origin is that because knock-off electronic appliance manufacturers are largely located in Shenzhen, thus wholesalers from other parts of China started calling their products “Shenzhen product”. Yet gradually “Shenzhen product” became “Shanzhai product” because they sound similar when people speak mandarin Chinese with Cantonese accent.
….
Although “shanzhai” companies do not use branding as a marketing strategy, they are known for their flexibility of design to meet specific market needs. An example of such is that during Obama’s campaign, “shanzhai” cell phone companies started selling “Obama” cell phone in Kenya, which has the slogan “yes we can” and Obama’s name on the back of the cell phone. [4] They also designed “ Bird Nest” and “Fuwa” (福娃) cell phones in light of the Beijing Olympic Games.

And from a news story at China Economic net:

Mountain village handsets storm market
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-07-19 11:31
By Yu Zhixiang

Mountain village handset, sounds wield? That is a rebellion force of mobile phones sweeping across the Chinese mainland. As the name implies, they are like a band of rebels rushing out of deep “mountain villages” where they lurk, looting the market and disrupting its order. In a plain term, they are mobile phones cloned after brand names and sold at knock-down prices without legitimate authorization and registration.
For a glimpse, look at the one that provides TV programs, Bluetooth earphones, MP3 and MP4 functions, as well as a 1.3 million pixel camera lens. For all its advanced configuration, it sells at flabbergasting RMB 530 yuan apiece (about US$77).

Despite their illegitimate identities, these industrial rebels have already grown into a presence in the market, a momentum that shows no sign to taper off anytime soon. Then, What is the reason behind an orgy of knock-off handsets? How does such an interest chain come into being? And where will they head for?

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Shanzhai culture (revised)

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