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From the West it’s fair competition, from China it’s ‘shanzhai’

May 28, 2010

There’s something irritating about the way the western media choose to describe products coming out of China.  It always amazes me how any ‘clone’ product that comes out of the west is marked as fair competition but whenever China comes out with a similar piece of technology the west screams foul play and words like ‘shanzhai’ (山寨, meaning ‘pirated goods’) get thrown around.

Take the iPad for example.  A new, trendy device from a successful, well-branded company that is sure to be a success.  Competitors have been planning devices similar to the iPad for as long as the iPad has been in development.  Companies like Google, HP, and Dell are all chasing Apple’s tail desperate to get their hands on a slice of the tablet market.  But what about Chinese companies?  They have a country with an ever-growing, aspirational middle class, surely it’s a good idea for them to develop similar tablet products also?

You only have to flick through the net and take a look at some of the headlines to realise just how biased the media is against Chinese technology.  It’s slightly funny at best, and fosters xenophobia and trade protectionism at worst.

Western Competitor
Chinese Competitor
Google preparing iPad rival (Gizmodo) China’s half priced iPad clone (A PC Mag)
A first look at Google’s ‘iPad killer’ (Huffington Post) Chinese iPad clone released three months before Apple’s (The Next Web)
Upcoming alternatives to the Apple iPad (Mashable) iPad clone wars: China unveils Android-based iPad knockoff  (dvice.com)
HP takes on Apple’s iPad with Slate tablet (Computer World) Chinese clone the iPad, add a keyboard (Crunch Gear)
Five reasons HP ‘Hurricane’ can compete with the iPad (Computer World Australia) Moonse, a Chinese iPad ripoff running on Android OS (Obront)
Dell’s Mini 5 tablet: Dell’s answer to the Apple iPad? (zdnet.com) China’s knockoff iPads have no one fooled…or do they? (Crunch Gear)

A Chinese iPad clone

Ok, ok…I’m the first to admit that Chinese companies are slightly more conspicuous in their cloning of technology (take the aptly named ‘iPed’ for example), but the way the iPad, its relatives and the media describe these products bring up many interesting ethical questions relating to trade protectionism, intellectual property, what exactly constitutes a ‘clone’ and responsibility in journalism.

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