China has an unusual place in the world’s economy. It is the home of some of the cheapest manufacturing in the world, but it’s also known for its insane amount of piracy and copyright infringements. Meaning that companies take a big risk sending their products to China to be manufactured, but they do it anyways because of how inexpensive it is. Due to this dichotomy, the country has a thriving black market and knockoffs have become an ingrained part of their society that is likely here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future.
An incredibly popular knockoff product for Chinese citizens is fake receipts. These receipts are illegal, and people have been executed over them, but they are still peddled on the streets or they can be bought on websites that advertise on signs in Chinese cities. People can buy any type of receipt, including travel receipts, lease receipts, waste material receipts and value-added tax receipts. Then the buyers submit these receipts to evade paying taxes or to defraud employers. The receipts are also used for much larger fraud schemes. One such case involved a British pharmaceutical company who had four senior executives at their operation in China embezzle millions of dollars over the span of six years using fake receipts.
One of the receipt counterfeiters said that for large receipts they take a percentage, usually about two percent, and he claimed that one time he printed out $16 million worth of receipts for a construction company; meaning he made $320,000 for just printing receipts.
9. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Based on the name of the product, it should be pretty obvious where Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey comes from. What’s interesting is that one of the unique features of the Jack Daniel’s recipe is that they use specific water that comes from a spring on the property of the distillery. Yet, there are Chinese knockoff sour mash whiskeys with names like Johns Daphne Tennessee Whiskey or Joens Danhse Tenderness Whiskey.
Jack Daniel’s isn’t the only alcohol that is counterfeited in China. In fact, homemade alcohol is big business there. It is believed that out of all the alcohol drank in China, 30 percent are knockoffs that were made in bathtubs. Besides just being illegal, these knockoffs are also considered potentially dangerous because who knows what the people are consuming when they drink it.
8. Rolls-Royce Cars
To some people, nothing implies success more than driving a luxury car. If you want one of those cars, say a Rolls-Royce Phantom, you’re looking at a price tag of at least $400,000. For those not looking to pay that price, there is the Emgrand GE from Chinese car manufacturer Geely, which looks almost identical to a Phantom, but with a price ranging from $30,000 to $40,000.
The Geely Emgrand GE, originally just called the Geely GE, debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2009 with plans for it to go into production in 2012 and it was supposed to be available for sale in 2014. However, as of autumn 2014, Geely’s website does not have any Emgrand GEs for sale.
7. Harry Potter Books
The seven Harry Potter books created a bit of a cottage industry for Chinese counterfeiters. For example, 10 days before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published in July 2007, a book with the same title hit the Chinese black market. The knockoff had nothing to do with the actual book written by J.K. Rowling, someone just wrote their own version of the book, stole the title and used Rowling’s name on the cover. That is one of the more ambitious ways that the books are pirated, but it isn’t the only way.
There are also unauthorized translations of Rowling’s books. Finally, there are other copies that have been scanned, reprinted and then sold for a fraction of the cost. The Harry Potter books are an excellent example of how many ways a product can be dissected and sold on the Chinese black market.
6. Microchips for the US Military
In 2010, the U.S. Military bought 59,000 microchips and these microchips were going into important tools like missile defense systems and radars that help distinguish between their forces and the enemy. It turns out that these microchips were actually cheap Chinese knockoffs. The good news was that they discovered that the microchips were Chinese counterfeits and weren’t installed in the system.
After the incident, the U.S. Military changed their rules when it came to ordering sensitive technology in order to avoid possible “Trojan horse” attacks. Because it would have been morbidly ironic if the American government paid for the Trojan attack because it was the cheapest option, which is the very essence of capitalism.
5. Goldman Sachs
A disturbing aspect of China’s issue with piracy and lack of copyright rules is that it gives scammers the ability to blatantly defraud innocent people. In August 2015, it came to light that a bank in the city of Shenzhen was calling itself, Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing Co., which, of course, is a rip-off of the Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs. When a representative of the fake Goldman Sachs was asked about the name, she said they just randomly chose the name and it was a complete coincidence that there is another bank called Goldman Sachs.
The problem with the fake Goldman Sachs was that the bank was only allowing people to deposit money and they weren’t allowing any withdrawals. So not only does the bank in Shenzhen share the name with Goldman Sachs, they are also very shady as well. At least the rip-off company likes to be consistent.
4. Prehistoric Fossils
In the 1970s, a major export out of China was fossils. Poor peasants would search for them and then sell them for a fairly modest amount. Of course, since there was money to be made from bits of rock that had impressions of animals, plants and minerals, counterfeiters in China started making fossils to sell to willing buyers.
The counterfeits are made from rock and plaster and usually use frog and chicken bones. They are often fused with pieces of a real fossil to make them look more authentic. The problem is so rampant that it is impossible to tell how many fossils in Chinese’s museums are fakes and it is impossible to actually calculate the value of their collections.
3. Jet Fighters
One of the most troubling Chinese knockoffs are jet fighters. The stealth J-31 ‘Shenyang’ debuted in November 2014 and it looks very much like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. It’s even quite possible that China got the blueprints of the jet from a cyber-attack on Lockheed Martin in 2009. However, that has never been confirmed.
What is known for sure is that the exterior of the J-31 looks a lot like the F-35. One notable difference is that the J-31 jet fighters are inexpensive compared to the F-35 jet fighters. Where this gets troubling for some people is that the J-31s were designed as an export, meaning that countries that America won’t sell to will be able to stock their air force with high-tech weaponry at a relatively low price.
2. Disney World
Construction of the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park began in 1986 and it finally open in 2006 with the tagline, “Disney is too far, please come to Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park.” Inside the park, patrons can find a large castle, along with depictions of a cartoon mouse that looks very much like Mickey, a duck that looks a lot like Donald and a woman who is unmistakably Snow White. When management at the park was asked about their connection with Disney, they said that they had no agreement with the company, their characters just looked similar. It was just a coincidence.
Apparently, since opening, the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park has toned down the blatant Disney rip-offs, but the creepy doppelganger aura is still rich in the air.
1. Foreign Cities
Easily, one of the creepiest knockoffs in China is duplicate foreign cities. Just to name a few, there is a Paris with an Eiffel Tower and an Arc de Triomphe, a Venice that has canals, and a London with pubs in it. The miniature knockoff cities are full of buildings call “duplitectures” and as of 2014, there were 10 of these foreign “cities” in Shanghai. What’s interesting is that these knockoff cities aren’t tourist attractions or part of a theme park, they’re functioning communities where people live. Also, unlike Chinatowns in other countries, these cities were not built by foreigners in China, instead they were designed by Chinese architects.
While many of the landmarks and the buildings will look the same, there will be small differences because the Chinese architects and developers take liberties with the designs. For example, some buildings will be smaller or bigger than the original, or the material will be different. But there is no mistaking the eerie similarities between the cities full of duplitectures and the real cities.