As we head towards 1,000,000 views in less than 72 hours over here on BirdAbroad, I think it’s time to take stock and give an update on China’s favorite ripoff Apple store.
As many of you know, this story has struck a nerve in the Western world, and has spread virally…well, basically everywhere. Reuters is claiming that the story has been been picked up by nearly 1,000 media outlets – and I can tell you that I have personally been contacted by every major news source in the US and Europe, included the AP, AFP, CNN, BBC, ABC, NBC, and other similarly acronymed outfits.
The Chinese news media is also catching on, with several hundred stories have been published locally and around the country. This seems like a good moment to introduce you all to an excellent and relevant word in Chinese: shanzhai (pronounced SHAN-JAI). It means fake, ripoff, counterfeit. As in:
“Woah, these Adidas are on sale for five dollars!!”
“Dude, save your money. Totally shanzhai.”
An increasing number of Chinese people have contacted me, variously lamenting the enormous prevalence of shanzhai goods in China, but plenty of others have chastised me for even bothering to talk about this on the internet – shanzhai is unstoppable in China, they say, and point out that they don’t really care if the Apple store is shanzhai or not. Some have even said that Apple deserves to have shanzhai stores, since their products are absurdly expensive, despite being made right here in China.
I’ve also been called upon to publicly apologize to the city and people of Kunming for…I don’t even know what. Presumably for besmirching their good name.
As for the main store that I photographed in my original post: an employee of the store has confirmed that it is unauthorized. An Apple spokeswoman has also confirmed that it is unauthorized (before they stopped responding to media inquiries entirely, or so it seems).
The Toronto Star reported that they had reached the manager of the fake Apple store, who said that while the store is indeed unauthorized, the wares they sell are real. Reuters has reported that angry customers of the Kunming “Apple Store” have come knocking, demanding receipts for their previous purchases of Apple products.
An unnamed “senior U.S. trade official” has even weighed in, saying, “Confronting [the challenges we continue to face combating intellectual property theft in China] is a high priority for the Obama Administration.”
Regardless of the international furor, let me assure you that the store is still open and seems to be operating as normal. I have heard that international news crews will be descending on Kunming shortly, but until their footage surfaces let me offer you this bit of video, taken by me a few hours ago (Friday evening, China time).