"Chinglish" I found this gem at Tieta, one of many shopping districts in Liaocheng

Despite what the evidence may suggest, China does have copyright laws similar to that of the United States that were enacted in 1979 as part of China’s opening up policy during that era.  That said, as far as I can tell there is little to no enforcement of these laws, and just about anywhere you go in China you’ll find a huge variety of knockoffs, wannabe brands, an imitations, some more egregious than others.

The most common misperception about shopping China is that if it’s made in China, it must be cheaper to buy it in China.  This is often times not the case, and when it comes to things like Western rand high end electronics such as computers, MP3 players, and game consoles they’re actually more expensive to buy in China than they would be in the United States.  The truth is that if you buy a genuine name brand in China, like a new pair of Air Jordans for instance, you’re most likely paying a price similar to that which you would pay in America.  You can always get a pair of knockoffs that pretend to be the real thing, but you pay for what you get and the quality is never up to par.  Any well trained eye— or for that matter any open eye—can spot the difference between a genuine product and a fake.  For example, today I spotted a pair of running shoes that bad both the Nike and Kappa emblems.  So unless these two companies formed an unprecedented partnership to create some sort of super-shoe, they were fakes.

In addition to blatant knock-offs, there are always a number of wannabe Chinese brands that imitate Western brands.  For example one can purchase a “Meiguo Pinguo” American Apple MP3 player, that does its best to imitate the Mcintosh brand with a logo of an apple without the bite taken out of it.  There are hundreds of different Chinese versions of Chuck Taylor sneakers, as well as a plethora of KFC imitations.

The best shopping I’ve found so far was definitely in Beijing.  Youshan shopping market was right down the street from the hostel I stayed in, and had five floors of knock-offs, ranging from North Face jackets to iPhones.  Some buys are much safer than others.  I wouldn’t be caught dead buying an iPhone at one of these places, but a fake Rolex…the thought crossed my mind.  Beijing might have a lot more options than other Chinese cities, but there are downsides.  Except for Western brand electronics, just about everything in Beijing is more expensive.  There always room for bargaining, but the Beijing vendors are quite accustomed to dealing with foreign shoppers, and tend to be very dramatic, tugging on your shirt sleeve, shouting, “Hello!  Do you want iPhone?  Very good price!”  With every offer of a bargain they feign a look of anguish, as if you’ve just signed off on their death sentence.  Shopping in Beijing is no joke, and just because you buy a Polo shirt for half the price it would cost back home does not mean that you’re being ripped off.

The Liaocheng shopping experience tends to be far more pleasant.  The vendors are far too excited to have a foreigner walk into their shop to put much effort into making money, though sometimes they might give you a high price because you’re a foreigner and they automatically assume one week’s paycheck would feed their family for a year.  A good use of theatrics is always helpful, tossing your hands in the air, laughing loudly at a given price, storming away in disgust when they won’t give you the price you’re looking for.  Chinese people seem to actually enjoy this process, and will come running after you shouting, “Ok ok ok, gai ni,” literally translated in to give you.