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'Shanzhai': Faking It for Money or Fun?
    2008-12-11 09:35:00     Xinhua

Manufacturers of hot-sale HiPhone, one of the "Shanzhai Cellphone" brands, copy nearly every part of iPhone. [File Photo: China Daily]

It's a cold Sunday morning. Mr. Phony turned off his hiPhone alarm, put on Kabba suits and Adidos shoes, grabbed a coffee from the KFG downstairs and came back in a hurry for the latest episode of the popular sit-com Ugly Wudi.

No spelling mistakes above. Products imitating famous brands have not been uncommon around China for a couple of years - and now they have a unified name, a brand if you like, "Shanzhai".

The Chinese word "Shanzhai", literally meaning small mountain village in the dialect of southeast China's Guangdong Province. It became a popular name for fakes when "Shanzhai Cellphones", churned out by small-scale manufacturers in southern China, quickly seized a considerable chunk of the mainland market over the past two years.

Now "Shanzhai" has been given with a broader meaning of fake, unprofessional or homemade, a slang for anything that steals ideas or styles from already well-known stuff.

Imitated electronics, including cellphones, MP3s and even laptops, are the most common "Shanzhai" products. Despite the possible infringement of intellectual property rights, they are much liked by young people and those on lower incomes.

Xiang Lianfei, 25, a salesman in Shanghai, bought a fake Nokia N95, a fake iPod Nano and a fake Rado watch costing a modest 2,000 yuan, while the three genuine items would have cost him more than eight times that amount.

Xiang said compared with real ones, there was still some way to go in terms of functions, quality and after-sale services, but these "Shanzhai" items were still worth buying.

"They were usable and cheap. They look exactly like real ones and make me cool. That's enough for me," Xiang said.

And Apple Inc. might be shocked by the hot-sale copycat HiPhone, on the market while its genuine product iPhone has yet to go on sale on the mainland. Qixingjian, a HiPhone dealer running an online shop on Taobao.com, sold out 280 items within one month.

The company which manufactured HiPhone, with its brand slogan of "not iPhone, better than iPhone", had its own registered trade mark and a complete operating system.

"We know Apple may sue us, but it's driven by huge market demand. Our company needs to copy from famous brands to survive first, and we will improve our R&D and seek further development in the future," said Zhang Haizhen, vice-president of the company. Zhang chose to be identified by his own name without mentioning the name of his company.

The HiPhone company sold out about 5,000 HiPhones in the past three months, and according to Zhang, at least one million other fake iPhones had been put on sale in the mainland market, some of which were even rip-offs of HiPhones!

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