Counterfeit Culture in China


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Counterfeit Culture in China

Part of the work Sentric does is with Fakes Cost More, an initiative designed to increase the education surrounding the problems with counterfeit products. As part of this we also help manage the FCM’s blog, viewed here: During our research we’ve been drawn time and time again to the practice of Shanzhai, which is the Chinese cultural philosophy behind creating counterfeit goods. This post aims to go some way to explaining what the term actually is and some of the issues that surround it, as well as how it affects us.

What exactly is Shanzhai? Translating the word offers two meanings, the first focusing on a fenced place within the forest or villages in the mountain that contain Stockade Housing, places traditionally off limits from the authorities. It also comes from Shanzhaiism, which relates to innovative thinking with a peasant mind set. Both form the basis of where the name comes from; originally counterfeit or ‘no-brand’ products were labelled as being beyond the control of police, and also often dubbed peasant products, though not always in a negative fashion as we will explain in later detail below.

Although Shanzhai products aren’t limited strictly to counterfeit goods (evidenced effectively here:, it’s this side of it that is most relevant to our studies. Counterfeiting these days isn’t always unsophisticated. The coverage of high quality ‘Fake Apple’ stores and phones ( & springing up across the country recently is an example where the practice is well executed with commercial gain the main value. Tales of faked pharmaceuticals, in some cases causing death (, are a more sinister use.

The term isn’t used wholly in a negative fashion. Often the products closeness to the original are heralded as a way of ingenuity amongst Chinese people, and their ability to adapt the products for a much cheaper alternative is seen as a success. This also explains why some counterfeit products sometimes revel within their fake status; misspelt brand names are attributed to this as well as mistaken renditions by the manufacturers (see below image). It is also why in part explains the proliferation of the practice and, up until recently, the slack attitudes towards Intellectual Property Laws in the region (the law surrounding patents was only amended in line with more Western Ideas in 2000 Things are changing.


The Chinese government continue to increase the pressure on counterfeiters, with a concerted effort made to increase the prowess of the nation within the IP realm ( Companies also continue to be more proactive in warding off the problems (, and whilst more and more stories arise each and every day about Shanzhai products more measures are taken constantly to prevent the increase with it.

Further information can be found at the links below:

Counterfeiting: A growing worldwide problem

From Phones to Tablets. Moving Up the Counterfeit Value Chain

WBA Partners Work To Help Stop Counterfeit Bearings –

There are tons of fake DJ headphones knocking about –

Consumers Warned About Fake Golf Equipment

Those Chinese Counterfeit Guitars