Slapping Wu Yi in the Face

Back in my old "hometown", down south in Shenzhen, the local government, along with the central government, is striking hard against counterfeit products. An inspection team from the central government that is to include Wu Yi is set to visit Shenzhen and its electronics markets this week and in the lead up to this, the local government has been actively raiding and threatening stall owners and market managers in and around the most famous of Shenzhen's electronics streets, Huaqiangbei.

What is so stunning about it is the open defiance shown by certain stall owners at the markets. Rumors about the markets future have taken over causing even legit businesses to close their doors, including in some cases grocers (am I being overly optimistic in suspecting the grocers are legit and not selling "fake" goods?). While the counterfeit sellers are shutting up shop, they were also reported to be promising customers that this was only temporary, after Wu Yi and the central government comes through, they'll reopen, and some had the audacity to say they'd reopen stronger than before.

I'm a bit surprised because there's yet to be much discussion of this in the English blogshpere or in the English dailies (especially Shenzhen Daily, or did I just miss it?). "Fake" mobile phones is a lot harder to deal with than fake LV bags. Everyone who is shopping at Luohu Commercial Center (Shenzhen's "Xiushui") knows they're buying fake goods, but when you go into the electronics markets at Huaqiangbei, you have no clue what you are buying. The phone could be an original Motorola, or a used one, or one reconstructed with a Motorola case and who-knows-what under the case. Only the briefest of looks at the repair shops they have in these markets lets you know the huge number of components and the skill the workers have with those items. Therefore, a crackdown on a market like this is much harder than one that is selling fake clothes and leads to confidence among stall owners of their success in avoiding the authorities. It's going to take a combination of harsher punishments and more diligent policing (it appears the Shenzhen PSB and other government agencies have been stepping up to the task so far) to shut them down entirely.

Until that happens, the cat-and-mouse game and trips like this central government inspection will only have a minimal impact at holding back the counterfeiters.

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