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'Shanzhai': Faking It for Money or Fun?
    2008-12-11 09:35:00     Xinhua
Zhang claimed his company was developing the technology of integrating two mobile network operators onto one cellphone.

"Imitation is the first stage for all mobile companies," he insisted, "but in the long run, it's only dog-eat-dog, that's why we are working on our home-made independent brand," he said.

From electronics to clothes and accessories, "Shanzhai" models could be a rags-to-riches story for manufacturers. But critics frowned on "Shanzhai's" lack of creativity and consumers complained some "Shanzhai" products had no quality assurance or after-sale services.

A China Central Television (CCTV) news program on November 30 concluded that "Shanzhai" companies must have independent innovation and produce qualified products with IPR to establish long-standing, homemade, quality brands.

Still, the word's popularity is overwhelming. Not only is the word used in commercial TV programs and dramas and about ordinary people whose appearance looks like certain celebrities, but also many grassroots parodies made by ordinary people have been nicknamed "Shanzhai."

The fake New York Times announcing the Iraq war ended, dated July 4, 2009, was also called in China a "Shanzhai" version of The New York Times.

China also has a "Shanzhai"-version "Bird's Nest" woven by farmers with bamboo, and a "Shanzhai"-version "A Dream of the Red Mansion" (one of the classics of Chinese literature) drama directed by a college student and played by his family members.

A "Shanzhai"-version search engine called Baigoohoo.com made by a website designer allegedly for fun in November also amused netizens. It integrated search results from three giant engines, Google, Yahoo and Google China's main rival Baidu, showing in three equal pieces on one page.

And as Chinese Lunar New Year is only seven weeks away, a 36-year-old cameraman in Beijing claimed that he was planning to challenge the 25-year-old traditional CCTV New Year's Gala program through his own "Shanzhai" version.

Sun Mengqi, the chief director of the "Shanzhai" gala, has announced on the Internet that he would hold a three-hour gala "for ordinary people" with entertaining and healthy programs collected from the public, garnered huge support from netizens.

"I didn't expect so much support. Obviously many people don't like the traditional CCTV show and they want more fun," Sun said.

He then launched a website and rented an office for it. So far he has about 700 programs applying for the show. He told Xinhua that equipment for broadcast and computers were sponsored by friends and some strangers who had heard the news.

Sun said the "Shangzhai" gala would be broadcast online on the eve of the Lunar New Year, at about the same time as that of the CCTV official gala.

Different from the controversy caused by "Shanzhai" electronics and other products, many commentators and sociologists held positive views on the creativity from grassroots people.
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