For a long time, Chinese companies have been known for copying market-proven products, brands and business models from the West and adapting them for the local market with only minor modifications. Such a phenomenon is known as shanzhai, a Chinese term that was originally used to describe a bandit stronghold outside government control. In today’s slang, it refers to businesses based on fake or pirated products.
Shanzhai has been prevalent in China in recent decades and this has earned China the reputation of being a “copycat nation”. Western media report that China’s preferential policies and regulations to restrict market access, such as the the “Great Firewall” in the internet industry, and the lack of intellectual property protection, give Chinese companies an unfair home advantage to create copies.
While shanzhai is common across a range of products and services, it is particularly prevalent in the internet sector. Chinese internet companies are often compared to their Western counterparts based on the similarity of their business models. For example, Baidu is known as the “Google of China”, Alibaba as the “eBay of China”, and Xiaomi as the “Apple of China”, just to name a few. Continue reading How China’s ‘copycat’ tech companies are now the ones to beat
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