In a press conference yesterday, a government official from MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) said “Shanzhai” is also a kind of innovation. (The person is Yang Xue-shan, a Vice Minister of MIIT. And here is the the article about in it. http://tech.163.com/10/1201/03/6MPP67GH000915BD.html)

He thought as long as there is no infringement of copyright, the production of “Shanzhai” products should be encouraged. For readers who don’t know what “Shanzhai” means, maybe you cannot see the irony. But, “Shanzhai”, in fact, means copycat.

So, how could a copycat product not infringe copyright?? A professor in Foreign Trade University explained, it is because many of such copycats do not do a perfect job. They are not exactly like the real ones in close examination. For example, currently, “Shanzhai” iPad is a hot item in the market. But, in fact, the “Shanzhai” version of iPads use Google’s Android as operating system. So, strictly speaking, there is no copyright infringement. It even has a bit of innovation, as the manufacturer changes the OS to Android.

WOW!! So, that it is. Just like negative times negative equal positive, it seems to suggest: if you do the wrong thing, but not doing it perfectly, you are in fact doing a right thing. And you should be encouraged to do more.

(hmm … really interesting … something worth a deep thought …)

But, how about the person who really innovate and make the first iPad?? Should we encourage what he did?? Our government official seems offer no answer… And as the person lives far far away, in a country called the United State, he is not even in our government official’s jurisdiction!! So, why should our government official care?

That is how I see it … anyone has any ideas ??

Sherman So

Author of Red Wired: China's Internet Revolution, the first book to completely survey the nature of China's internet. (http://redwiredrevolution.com/) She previously was the lead China technology reporter... More by Sherman So

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6 Comments

  1. a samsung galaxypad looks more like an ipad than most shanzhai tablets… so is the galaxypad shanzhai?

  2. “Shanzhai” in chinese context is more than copycat. Yes, this word was firstly used to tease the Chinese copycat products by Chinese people, but it evolves. Now, it is used largely to class products or services not perfectly developed yet but based on some personal creation that is normally very tiny, like applying Android on iPad (iPad OS is not cracked as Windows is suffering, isn't it), and is enlightened by some kind of important innovation of other products and service. Purely cracking or copycat should be cracked down, however, progress standing on the great innovation achieved to reach the next one. Isn't this the way we are in?

  3. If strictly speaking, I think it is… Samsung does copy Apple iPad's and makes its own version.

  4. Maybe we are wrong and the Chinese are wrong.
    According to Wikipedia on 'innovation': “Innovation can therefore be seen as the process that renews something that exists and not, as is commonly assumed, the introduction of something new.”

    So there you have it folks, Shanzhai is innovative!

  5. Maybe we are wrong and the Chinese are wrong.
    According to Wikipedia on 'innovation': “Innovation can therefore be seen as the process that renews something that exists and not, as is commonly assumed, the introduction of something new.”

    So there you have it folks, Shanzhai is innovative!

  6. Can you name the person/company that invented the mouse? GUI? or Tablet? Nope, it wasn't Steve Jobs who are the total innovation god today. His first company is about to Shanzhai a computer cheap enough so common folks can afford it. Also, he's quoted to say “Good artists borrow, and Great Artist Steal” as well as “Creativity is just connecting things.” “Shanzhai” has moved behind simply copycat and moving into a user centric innovation engine. Question for the author is that “how far does one have to deviate from original to be noted as 'innovation' instead of 'copycating?'”

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