Monday, December 15, 2008

Must Read Monday: "Shan Zhai Ji" in Most Searched List

Sky Canaves and Juliet Ye of the Wall Street Journal's China Journal Blog dealt with the top ten lists of 2008. Although most Chinese use Baidu, and Google is used by some of the higher educated Chinese, the most searched terms can give an indication of what is hot and what is not in China. Read the China Journal article here.

In the category "Most asked questions": Number 1. , unsurprisingly, given the enormous impact on China's society, was: What is melamine? Interestingly also on number 8 another question had also to do with substandard, counterfeit products: What is Shan Zhai Ji?

Ok, everything that shows up in a Google top ten is a trend. But what does this trend mean? So what means Shan Zhai Ji 山寨机? This is literally: Mountain Bandit Machine, and is a a knickname for cell/mobile phones with copied design and functions of branded cell/mobile phones offered for a much lower price, without permission of the brand owners.

According to Candy Yang and Lisa Li of China Youthology, which is "catching the pulse of Chinese youth", Shan Zhai Ji has developed into a subculture which can be defined as:

  • Enjoying technology for a low price;
  • Satisfaction with the level of technology and innovation of small bandit factories, which meets Chinese youth need to experience new technology and new functions and some humour;
  • Pride for unpretentious, low quality low price products.
  • Shan Zhai Ji might look vulgar and ‘out-dated’, but are considered cool and interesting by some youth.

Ms Yang and Ms Li did an informal survey about who is buying these Shan Zhai Ji products. The outcome is: creative youth, technology geeks and guys. In marketing terms the important group of early adopters. In other words: the opposite of brand chasing as the title of the article rightly put is, read the China Youthology article here. Conclusion: counterfeit trademarks and pirated copyright in China is not only caused by supply but also by demand. Brand holders need to work on both sides.

An example of a Shan Zhai Ji, you can see below a video of the iOrange, oops iOrgane. It has some extra functions compared to those of the iPhone.


Anonymous said...

nice nice, shanzhaiji is ubercool...
cheep, and hi tech
that's what the masses want

Winston Z.

Anonymous said...

I do not agree with you. Bandit phones are creative. They are not knock-offs but add functions. If the big companies do not deliver, small ones will.

IP Dragon said...

Thank you for your comments.

I don't know if that is what the masses want. But, it sure looks like a trend if it is mentioned in the top ten.

I partly agree with the second comment. The bandit factories produce phones based on patented technology without permission, beside they infringe copyright, design (design-patents) and trademarks. So they are able to offer a product relatively cheaper than the original, because they didn't have to invest in the development of the technology and they did not have to invest in design and marketing. With this money the bandid factories can spend on creative design and new functions.


IP Dragon
Gathering, commenting on and sharing information about intellectual property in China to make it more transparent, since 2005

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post!

a comment on your reply regarding the "bandit" factories:

"So they are able to offer a product relatively cheaper than the original, because they didn't have to invest in the development of the technology and they did not have to invest in design and marketing."

To just say that they didn't have to invest in the development of the technology sounds a bit vague.

To say it another way: These companies did not license the technology, so they are stealing the technology. And as you mentioned, often times they are stealing the design and brand connection as well.

This feels like yet another indication of the chinese publics attitude towards IPR. And the young generation are rebelling towards IPR not just to rebel, but because they don't agree with it, it has no clear basis in their fundamental values of what is fair and what is property.

I don't agree with that sentiment, but I can absolutely understand it.

But it sure feels like the vast majority in China continue to reject IPR and that IPR has not gotten a good footing in China and been immersed into the education and business culture. Rather I have gotten the impression that people still feel it is something superimposed, unrelevant and connected to foreign powers.

As for the phenomenon, I found some more more about it here (though Youthologys post on it is comprehensive and excellent):

SocialCritic said...

I think a massive transition is taking place wherein private ownership of technical innovation will be an indefensible claim.

Not that it doesn't have any validity, just that it will cease to be possible to defend an idea as property when 100's or thousands of other people could have (and may have) arrived at the same, or a similar solution in the context of a stated problem - the truth is: most innovation is built on other peoples ideas and mentioning, or giving credit to those earlier innovators is nearly impossible (example: should the guys who invented the transistor be praised each time a flash card is used?) so these “knock-offs” are just the first wave of that credit NOT being given or acknowledged in a contemporary sense and after a long battle where the state attempts to criminalize and punish this as IP theft, it will eventually be recognized that the paradigm has changed and innovating will be for recognition rather than money. (this concept is explored entertainingly in Voyage from Yesteryear

In that vein, I have begun a project that I can only pray the Shan Zhai Ji (山寨机) will copy, and go on to innovate with it: