Did that lion just bark at me? Counting down China's most radical and odious counterfeits
China, the kings of counterfeit, are responsible for approximately 67% of all counterfeit goods seized globally. So it shouldn’t come as a great surprise to learn that last week, a zoo in the People’s Park of Luohe, in China, dressed-up a Tibetan Mastiff dog and tried to convince customers it was African lion. The ruse was blown when the friendly ‘lion’ barked at one of the zoo visitors.
This fun, Chinese chicanery has long been common place and may be innocently justified by the Shanzhai culture. Shanzhai refers to the plethora of imitation and pirated products, specifically designed for peasants and the lower socioeconomic populous of China. Lookalike celebrities, $5 mobile phones, bootleg movies and even entire provinces are all faked to perfection in an attempt to bring the outside world to those who can’t afford it; albeit in broken Engrish. From your morning coffee at ‘Starfucks’ to your ‘Adidoss’ track pants and Sony ‘POP Stations’, China has a folly of fun faux to embrace...and a quite few to avoid.
China is populated with famous faux western stores. You’ll find the nouveau Mongol incarnation of Colonel Sanders at ‘KLC’, a knock-off Ikea store with a ‘meatballs’ boasting 40% lead as an ingredient and the ever questioning ‘Pizza Huh’. Possibly thanks to the asian Steve Jobs, you can now stroll into an unauthorised ‘Apple Stoer’ where you can buy an ‘iPed’ for around $140. It comes with a USB port, built-in webcam and the assumption that you’re fluent in Mandarin.
They’re either pioneers of modern synthesised cuisine or the masters of gastronomic gripe, in any case, the Chinese ought to be celebrated for their innovate use of food materials and toxic chemicals. There’s baby formula with nitrate and botulism which have been linked to “big head disease”. Delicious imitation eggs made from Alginic acid, Chloride and Chalk, which have led to dementia. And imitation rice made from potato and industrial resin which is the clinical equivalent to eating a plastic bag. One opportunistic street vendor went so far as to soak cardboard in industrial chemicals to soften it, before chopping and combining it with pork off-cuts flavoured with chemical powders. The dumplings are then soaked in caustic soda and steamed for your convenience.
America’s $12 million missile defense program was thrown into serious jeopardy when it was discovered that the electronic components on mission computers, aircraft and military vehicles were found to be made from inferior counterfeit parts. Unlike eating an egg made of chemicals or biting into a steam-bun full of caustic cardboard, this monumental fuckup could’ve actually been responsible for innumerable deaths and international diplomacy failures had it not been picked up by defense contractors. It cost almost $2.78 million to rectify the oversight which was caused by a $2 counterfeit component.
It takes some guts to counterfeit something. With a total disregard for licensing or ownership legalities, the Chinese should be venerated for their innovative architectural pastiches and humble mimicry. One Chinese millionaire has gone above and beyond to ensure his fantastical dream is realised, and he doesn’t care what you or his residents think. Earning the title of the “Most outrageous illegal structure” in China’s capital, Zhang Biqing’s apartment block looks like a rejected set for ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’. Old Biqing has got some balls. You see he faked an entire mountain. Atop his 25th floor penthouse looms a chunky complex of cement-cast rocks, plastic trees and a poorly constructed swimming pool which is causing the building to ‘droop’ from the pressure. The residents want it and him gone, but Biqing can’t see the reason for all this fuss, “It’s just an ornamental garden.”
Walt Disney would be rolling in his cryogenic chamber if he were around to witness the fuckery that is Disneyland China. Disney is usually a palace of sparkly dreams and princess castles, but the Chinese version is closer to some kind of frightening, apocalyptic wasteland harbouring the broken dreams of every Chinese child. Cleverly named “Wonderland” to avoid the wrath of Disney’s legal army, this nightmarish shell of an amusement park was abandoned halfway through construction leaving only the skeletal remains behind. A disagreement with local farmers halted construction on the park and still to this day, they can be seen digging around the remains of the site with the looming skeleton of Cinderella’s decaying castle behind them.
Overcrowding is a problem for China and it may have something to do with the millions of counterfeit condoms that are circulating throughout the country. Officials recently seized more than 4.6 million fake condoms, almost half of them coming from one single raid which netted more than 2 million inferior rubbers and possibly prevented an entire generation from ever existing. The lid was blown off the prophylactic pretenders when a local policeman bought a few faulty frangas and took a whiff of one, the stench of “cheap lubricants” was enough to set off investigators.
In an epic cultural forgery that puts fake Disneyland to shame, these Chinese developers took on the daunting task of faking entire cities. There’s an Eiffel Tower just casually hanging out in a gated community on the outskirts of Shanghai. A fake Austrian hamlet mimicking the fairytale lakeside vista of Hallstatt, erected on the township of Guangzhou complete with an enormous man-made lake.
And nestled in the mountains of Shanghai is ‘Thames Town’, a quaint little township made up of rows upon rows of mock-Tudor homes. Perhaps a tribute to old England, sort of like eating a cornish pasty with chopsticks.
America has the Crips and Bloods, England has the Ghetto Boys and China has alcohol gangs. Instead of instilling fear among the population through drive-bys and drug wars, this Chinese gang prefers to get them drunk on fake wine. It’s estimated that as much as 80% of all alcohol in Shanghai is fake. While it might sound harmless enough to just switch the labels around and dilute the grog to a watery wash, investigators actually found industrial strength methanol and automotive antifreeze to be the predominant ingredients. It’s probably some kind of natural selection, as the majority of people suffering the poisoning effects have mostly been international backpackers. Gānbēi!
Around 2.2 trillion cigarettes are inhaled every year in China and close to 400 billion of those are unlicensed, unregulated fakes. Marlboros, Benson & Hedges and even the pleb favourite, Newport have all been falsified in illegal factories buried beneath the earth. The neighbouring mountain caves, back streets and even religious temples have now become home to more than two hundred illegal cigarette factories. Smoking will kill you, but smoking in China might just kill you, infect you with insects then take a dump on your grave. These Chinese cancer sticks were found to contain around 80% more nicotine and almost lethal levels of carbon monoxide, being 130% more toxic than regulated cigarettes. But it’s the human shit and insect larvae that was found inside that really should have you reaching for the nicotine patches.
Just a spoon full of industrial solvent helps the medicine go down. It’s no wonder close to 300,000 people die every year in China from counterfeit pharmaceuticals and it’s probably the same reason the country has become the unofficial leading source of counterfeit drugs. If you think you’re exempt from these counterfeits, think again. China exports pharmaceuticals to more than 30 nations and there’s every chance you’ve already consumed a tainted pill. A recent raid on one of the many illegal drug manufacturers found counterfeit Vicodin, aspirin, antihistamines, supposedly life saving antiretrovirals and of course viagra—though the chemical compounds maybe more detrimental to your health than a seven hour erection from some dodgy viagra. Some of the medications were found to have three times the level of active ingredients (hence the seven hour erections) with some of the fillers containing antifreeze, drywall and plaster dust, and even flakes of yellow highway line paint. Imagine what they put in their illegal drugs?