‘Made in China’: The real, the fake and the make-believe

Contemplating China, as with other nations, provides countless opportunities to unravel the knotty problem of the real, the fake and the make-believe of so-called reality…

One reality for me, like many of you, is that some of the clothes that I wear, some of the gadgets I use or the products that pepper my home, will carry the famous tagline: ‘Made in China‘. Given the global prevalence of those three words it seems silly that China is often known and/or interrogated in the West for a rampant copycat culture…

Qiadon (Jordan copy) shop, China
Not quite ‘his Airness’ as seen at some 600 ‘Qiaodon’ shop units across China. (Image: John Pasden/jpasden/Flickr via NPR)

An ongoing case in point is the Jordan/Qiaodan ‘trademark v copycat’ saga. Jordan’s widely recognised ‘jumpman’ logo and his world famous
family/brand name have been battled over, for several years already. It appears that despite being a recurrent winner in his sporting career Michael Jordan is yet to be victorious, legally, in attempting to shut down potential Chinese trademark/brand infringements. (You can read about it and/or listen to an NPR item – linked, right)…

The copycat charge is all too often laid at the feet of ‘China’ – in that broad brush stroke sense. This habit of Western hacks and commentators is wielded lazily, and far more insidiously, to spread a more extreme argument that is gathering impetus. This proposes China as incessantly cyber-spying on (pointedly) the USA. Such allegations, for me, bring to mind three other little words, a la ‘Made in China’:

Pot. Kettle. Black.

If those words suggest too colloquial (or too quintessentially English) a phrase for you, here are a further three words:

Quid. Pro. Quo.

If those words are too antiquated for you, perhaps a final three words:

Like. For. Like.

If China is cyber spying, so are other nations like America et al. No need for an investigation, nor even an Edward Snowden quote. Point being: it is, always, important to strive for balance, context, perspective – yet regarding China it is hard to find enough of a range of frank voices and credible insights beyond the bias, and noise of standard narratives (like the copycat challenge).

Aside from some critical voices in Hong Kong and among Chinese ex-pat bloggers, I am left to decipher the State-run Chinese media that naturally hovers between no-holds barred Nationalism, nonsense and naivety.

Hence I find myself most often stuck in stasis unable to regard China as closely as I would like; and lost in limbo regardless of what news sources I might tap. I am in a no-man’s land of make-believe, occasionally sniffing out the stinking quagmire of plain fabrication or the mysterious yet unmistakable scent of bullshit…

All too often it is unclear what might be real and what may be fake when it comes to looking at, and thinking about, China from afar, through our TVs, newspapers or ‘the Western web’. If you can get access to a wide range of academic papers on China – and if you can churn through their terminology and stylistic/editorial issues – then that may prove to be a more advisable use of time. Better still, visit China and get yourselves off the beaten track. Above all I would urge you to embrace as many different opportunities as you can to unravel the knotty problem of the real, the fake and the make-believe whether you’re interested in deciphering China or another subject.


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