Counterfeits and Fakes in China
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Includes: You are a fake!
Necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps it is necessity, which has allowed the Chinese fakers to always be there throughout its history. Necessity. Necessity for money, survival. Perhaps it is the same mental attitude as gambling. For whatever reasons, China is the land of the fake and the land of face. Two potentially dangerous, to you, four letter words.
Things that appear to be are not what they actually are. This is the golden rule of fakes and the best thing you can remember. This is true in the concept of face, which is not confined to China of course, and it is also true in fakes. Good fakes, not just your ordinary, common or garden fakes. This is the land of the art form of fakes, the cutting edge of the 'industry'.
I am not going to tell you a lot of stuff about this; it has already been recorded by many other people in many other writings, newspaper articles and TV documentaries etc.
In China there are all kinds of people, and it’s my hope, as we interact with China and she interacts with us, we will find the true people and the ones who we can relate to and forge friendships with, that is, those who are willing to change, while we also learn to understand them and appreciate their uniqueness.
The Bottom line regarding fake things in China is this: anything that can be humanly made and produced probably has a counterpart (fake version), or will have. Sometimes fake stuff is harmless and a joke, and at other times it can be catastrophic. Making fake malarial pills, for example, copied from the Guilin Pharmaceutical company in China, and sold onwards to the hospitals in South East Asia suddenly becomes very unfunny. Several people have died in these incidents since the hospitals in Burma and other countries depend upon them for quality and reliability but tragically find they are, in fact, sophisticated fakes, thus resulting in unnecessary deaths.
The same goes for Panama. Pharmaceutical supplies designed for the health of the population there, have been found to contain Chinese manufactured antifreeze that contains the solvent diethylene glycol, which is fatal to humans and consequently killed 100 Panamanians. This solvent was labeled as a 'sweetener' coming from China! This particular 'sweetener' has shown up in various countries. It is considerably cheaper for producers to put this chemical in than (usually glycerin) the genuine article. The other toxic chemical is often placed into medicines, cough syrups etc.
In fact, according to dear Mr. Mandelson, (former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s old spin wizard), half the counterfeit goods of any type found in the EU originate in China.
So, China has become a major supplier of counterfeit drugs. When we say 'China' we should understand that we are not talking about the government, but rather groups of lawless and small time or even big time crooks, or 'miscreants' as the Indian Press would say! However this toxin is not for export only, the Chinese population also benefits from the poison of these counterfeiters.
There are reports about 2005 poisonings of 11 people due to toxic antibiotics!
There was also a very famous case in Anhui province a couple of years ago of fake milk which provided only about 6% of the nutrition it should have. As a result more than 50 babies died there and more than 100 experienced severe malnourishment.
I guess a poisoned mind results in a poisoned product. A poisoned soul results in passing on poisonous goods to others.
The 'fake barons' (as in 'drug barons') never really stop to think of the consequences. My mental impression of them is that they meet secretly in some dingy place while sipping Maotai and having a beautiful girl on each arm. More likely they have their own plush office in many cases and the girl can wait until the evening or late afternoon.
Whatever scenario it is, its certain the Chinese Fakers are still in big demand everywhere. 'Pianzi' 骗子 is the word for 'trick' or 'cheat' (you) in Chinese, something you will hear often. Some of the fakes are so good, you can’t tell, as the recent rash of fake Hong Kong $1,000 bank notes proved were so good, that it took experts to really shine the light on them and root them out. The fakes were all traced to Mainland Chinese sources through Hong Kong connections. Old story.
But the world has become weary of this story, this gargantuan rip-off of us by thousands of, well.....Chinese. As much as wonderful, precious and kind Chinese exist, there are also these counterfeiters. Perhaps though, they do in a smaller way what many banks and governments do to us, so maybe we are really looking in the wrong place, who knows? The purpose of this section is just to inform that China is the place where you will find and get and receive something you don’t want- a fake! I think it will be difficult to spend any time in China and not pick up something bogus.
China is considered the fake art capital of the world; from fake Tang dynasty horses to fake art and expertly faked porcelain which is incredibly hard to tell the difference. Fake ancient coins, fake wood, fake archeological artifacts. Before you go 'ooohing and aahhing' over some great thing you see down the market, you should realize the price being offered to you as a foreigner, is probably 10 times what it is worth, if anything.
The greatest artists in China in history often learned their art simply by copying, so copying became an art form, done for centuries. Perhaps this explains why copying and later faking became almost blurred into one, where one ends and the other begins. And if it makes money, why not?
A sideline on this is make sure when you give money to a storekeeper in China you do know and remember what denomination you gave him or her, whether it was a 50, or 100 RMB note, and that the note is not changed under the table and then handed back to you as a 'fake' because they say they can't accept your note because it is fake, and they just changed it themselves for a fake to give to you!
The likelihood of the second phrase happening is rare, but it has happened to this author before. You would have thus just lost 100 RMB and have been given a worthless fake 100 RMB or, in other words, you will have spontaneously lost the equivalent of about 9-10 Euros. (2007).
A fake is a fake is a fake! Or is it?
Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize for recent fakery should be awarded to this recent situation that happened, embarrassingly, in Beijing.
This shocking situation was introduced by a reporter from Beijing TV!
Chinese people like to buy 'baozi' which are a type of dumpling that is round and usually has a meat or vegetable filling. This is a staple of many a Chinese breakfast. Usually, these baozis are sold on the street by licensed sellers. However, it was disclosed by the above reporter, that one seller in Beijing, had in fact, made the filling of his baozi with… guess what? Well, you won’t guess, so I will tell you! He got cardboard and mixed it with some chemical and soaked it in this solution then ground up the solution until it became a soft pulp, and finally added pork flavoring and bits of pork fat to make it taste authentic. Anything to save money, right? This idea of citizens in the capital city of the Middle Kingdom eating ground up cardboard and chemicals caused national outrage almost overnight. The reporter produced a film showing the process one seller used and of him actually chopping and grinding the cardboard up with chemicals.
The Beijing food and safety watchdog investigators sprang into action, checking baozi sellers everywhere! Baozis were taken to laboratory for analysis and in every case were found to be …'cardboard free'. The investigation turned to suspicion of the original reporter from BTV, who eventually 'confessed' he had made up the story in order to boost circulation or viewing audience. He had paid some legitimate vendors to do this and fed the fake baozis to some nearby poor construction workers. So the report was a fake. Or was it?
The TV station immediately distanced itself from the reporter, saying he was only 'temporary staff.' Illustrious BTV made a public apology on its prime time news, but some of the public wasn’t buying it. Not the baozis, I mean the story! Netizens were indignant the TV channel heaped the blame on the reporter, rather than taking responsibility themselves. They also heaped scorn on the claim that it was fake! 'Who can we turn to find the truth about the cardboard baozis?', one Netizen pleaded.
So, was it actually a fake, or was it a true story? Was it just easier for the TV authorities to suppress the story through their vilification of the original reporter? As with most fakes and scams, not many people really know the truth!
You are a fake!
On a lighter side of 'fakes' is the very real possibility that you can be transformed into a fake yourself if you live in China for any length of time! What, Me? Never! I could never be a fake, I am after all, me and myself and yours truly, the original cool dude and hip, groovy guy/gal or whoever you think you are.
Well yes, this is certainly true and we all know this don't we? Or do we?
Let me explain:
A couple of years ago, when I was still living in south China, and still trying to eke out a living, out of the blue I received a call from a foreigner. How he quite obtained my personal mobile number is still not too 'qingchu' (清楚), clear. But anyway, he did call me one lunchtime. Since I had met him once before, and seeming like a nice guy, I listened to what he had to say.
'How would I like to earn about 600 RMB in an hour and half for doing nothing?' Intrigued more by the 'nothing' than the money, I asked him to continue.
Yes, the situation was indeed desperate. A brand new international shopping mall was having its opening ceremony in Zhujiang, a town somewhere south from Guangzhou. This enormous shopping center was to be opened by no less than, I can’t quite remember his name, but some high up communist official in Guangdong, as well as being attended by all the Managing Executives of all the participating construction companies, further hangers-on and the national TV and newspapers.
The problem was there were too few foreigners to fill the front rows of this meeting hall where great speeches would be made, and bouquets of flowers would flow like the Pearl river, passed out by gorgeous young Chinese women all of matching height (within a half centimeter) with enormous splits up their long legged Qipiaos, and where the thought of money and greater money would excite the brains of all present for at least two hours, while being washed down with the best local drinks and rice wines afterwards. Sounds irresistible doesn’t it?
And so with the bait of sitting there representing a foreign manager of a company who had invested in this auspicious project, I arrived in my best suit and sparkling red lucky horse stirrup silk tie! With much bowing and scraping I was shown to my seat.
Still though, foreigners were few, and it became impossible to tell who was real, and who like I, was just a plant or a fake! The difference could be found as to who was invited up at the end for the photo shoot with the party officials.
During my one hour of sitting there and listening to speeches in Putonghua, (most of which I couldn't understand fully at the time), an assortment of various TV station cameras, came within inches of my lovely face, broadcasting it later for all to see across the Guangdong area and possibly beyond! My only real claim to fame so far in the Middle Kingdom! Imagine all those masses of Chinese pointing their fingers at me that night on TV wondering which of the foreign companies I represented.
And so the capitalist orgasm was suddenly over, the crescendo passed, TV cameras were switched off and the place began to empty. At which time, my minder, another beautiful long legged girl, proclaimed to our translator; ‘Well that's it, we’ll take you home now.’ A beautiful Shanghai Buick drove us back to our very door, not only 600 RMB richer, but more importantly, richer in the insight of how things work in the Land of Face.