It’s Time to “Copy” China ?

WIRED Magazine

On March 2, the new cover for a English Magazine WIRED, focusing on how technique will affect culture, economics and politic, is the founder of Xiaomi, Lei Jun. This is the first time, a Chinese CEO becomes the cover of WIRED.

No wonder, since Xiaomi was founded at 2010, it suddenly became a critically acclaimed company. For it’s high cost-effective production, Xiaomi smart Phone, is highly welcomed by not only China market but Asian market. With the success of the very first version of Xiaomi Phone, Lei Jun created a new “Xiaomi” culture. And the core value of this culture is cost-effective. Apparently, Lei Jun and his new culture are pretty approved in China. Clay Shirky,a professor of NYU, made such a comment about Xiaomi:

Having a brand that stands for quality at an acceptable price is a big deal here, because this country is cheap, cheap the way many Americans were if they grew up in the Great Depression”(Shirky “China’s version of the ‘Maker Movement’ puts the U.S. to shame).

Consistent with China’s circumstances is the key to Lei Jun’s success. And now, more and more native Chinese companies want to copy Lei Jun’s success. No doubt that, after Jack Ma, Lei Jun tents to be the next leader of Chinese IT industry.

Jack Ma and Lei Jun’s success have already gained much attention from the western world. After Alibaba successfully list on the NASDAQ, Xiaomi is considered as the next “Chinese dream” by western media. This means that Chinese technique innovation is gradually accepted by the western world.

However, “Shanzhai” Culture still prevails in China market.

Not all the smart phone makers are like Xiaomi. In China, there is still a bunch of companies like copying Apple’s iphone design. The picture above is showing the new smart phone produced by Lenovo, which is a well reputed company in China. Since this smart phone lunched, it has been denounced for its appearance is same as iPhone.

And the definition of Shanzhai is not only restricted to the IT industry

“Shanzhai” Street in Si Chuan

Recently a set of pictures shows the whole street is filled with shanzhai brand in Guang Han, Si Chuan province. Brands like Seven-Eleven and Chanel are ludicrously renamed to “Seven-Elevel”, “CNANEL”. This is just one little part of Chinese shanzhai culture. In Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Rebellion in China, the author mention the great shanzhai phenomenon:

On China’s Internet, blogs, bulletin boards and news sites carry photos of automobiles jerry-rigged to run on railroad tracks (“shanzhai trains”), fluffy dogs trimmed and dyed to look like the national mascot (“shanzhai pandas”) and models of the Beijing Olympic Games’ National Stadium made out of sticks (“shanzhai Bird’s Nest”). A property developer in Nanjing, hoping to lure business and buzz, set up storefront facades with logos such as “Haagon-Bozs,” “Pizza Huh,” “Bucksstar Coffee,” “KFG” and “McDnoald’s” (Canaves and Ye, “Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Rebellion in China”).

The biggest reason for shanzhai culture prevailing in China is Chinese people’s vanity. When Chinese citizens are purchasing those goods, they actually know these products are fake. However, they are still willing to buy. Not because they are cheated by businessmen, but there is a demand. By buying counterfeit brands, citizens enjoy the prestige. Especially some luxury clothing, bags. For they can not afford the authentic goods but they still want to show off. The error of consumer psychology is breeding counterfeit brands in China.

In this article, the author gives us several reason why China is lack of innovation: “ a land of rule-bound rote learners”, “ too homogenized and controlled to encourage imagination and risk taking”, “ entrepreneurship are not their strong suits”. Admittedly, Xiaomi and Alibaba’s success is inspiring more and more Chinese makers to join in the innovation group. Nevertheless, the earth of Chinese innovation is still shrouded in shanzhai culture. It’s just too early to copy China.