During a walk around the French Concession looking for a copy & print shop, Melinda and I came across a courier with a familiar blue & orange logo on his scooter, but something was amiss, instead of FedEx, it read FedXe. This was not a typo, this was a courier that was like FedEx in the same way Stephen Colbert is truthy, like Fox News. China is a land of copycats and jiade, a place where they can take something and make it cheaper, but not better. There is little evidence of originality, or innovation. It is a deeply ingrained cultural phenomenon, reinforced through the educational system where teaching is through rote memorization and rewards are given to those who can perfectly regurgitate an answer, but nothing is done to encourage risk, innovation, or creative thinking.
Nowhere is this more clearly laid out before you than at the AP Market, in Shanghai, where merchant after merchant clamors to sell you a Rolex or Omega watch, a Louis Vuitton satchel, or a Mont Blanc pen. And none of it is rea, it’s all jiade. And the fake comes in three levels of quality: A, B & C, each with its own price point and its own life expectancy. A ‘C’ grade watch might be 100 RMB (~ 16 USD) and it could last a week, or two; ‘B” grade gets you a month or two for 50% more money and ‘A’ grade is twice the price but can last for 6 months, or more. And then there is “The Good Stuff.”
This is the A+ stuff that looks and feels like the real thing and the vendors work hard to sell that idea complete with designer prices, but the buyer has to go on the assumption that it’s all jiade and bargain accordingly; that 2500 CNY ( $412 USD) watch? Don’t pay more than $80. The 1800 CNY designer handbag can be had for $50 USD.
In addition to the fake goods for sale the market offers the usual assortment of Chinese chopsticks, tea sets, silk robes, NY Yankee hats, prescription eyeglasses in 20 minutes (we passed and went to a real optical store) and shop after shop of custom made suits, cashmere coats, and silk dresses. I think I’ll return to get a tuxedo made for the Shanghai Irish Association’s St. Patrick’s Day Ball.