Yuanxu Tang  

When turning to the phenomenon that China copied in various aspects of western countries’ ideas, western societies generally believe that this behavior is called plagiarism. Such as this social networking site like Facebook or in lots of new ideas in design field, the West researcher generally considered Chinese version Facebook which called Renren, their core technology and ideas definitely come from the Facebook . But after a long period of observation and study, many Chinese scholars now call this situation as simulated study, which quiet like a newborn baby to observe the behavior of adult behavior and learn from it. At last, this newborn baby can create their own course of actions. It is because that Chinese market started very late which compared to Western mature market. Chinese economy, including the design field are more like a newborn baby. 


Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work. The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules. - Definition via Wikipedia [1] It’s hard not to be curious about the Chinese predilection for copycat architecture. As the country’s economy skyrockets faster than any other’s, China’s suburbs are sprouting up replicas of iconic landmarks from mostly European cities. There’s a miniature Paris, complete with Eiffel Tower, in the outskirts of Hangzhou. There’s a British-inspired “Thames Town” outside of Shanghai. Shijiazhuang has a Great Sphinx, complete (incomplete?) with a missing nose. The White House is one of the most copied buildings throughout the country. People live and work inside these structures. To outsiders, China’s passion for derivative architecture might seem bizarre. Why make your country into a theme park? Is creativity so lacking among Chinese architects that they’re left to mimic a Western, romanticized past?

These questions miss the point, according to Bianca Bosker, author of 2013’s Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China. In the first thorough account of Chinese “copycat” architecture, Bosker makes the case that these buildings offer insight into the complicated aspirations of the Chinese middle class.  [2] In the case of China’s Western-themed towns we need to understand the cultural and economic context of the period of time when they first started being conceived. When China’s first architectural-appropriations began appearing, the country had just awoken from the doldrums of government-mandated architectural monotony and pragmatism.

Communism tends to have the effect of wiping a country’s traditional slates clean, and this is especially true when it comes to architecture and urban design. Starting from the Communist takeover in 1949, China went to war against its traditional and diverse styles of architecture, which often included the wholesale demolition of buildings which represented the old, “bourgeois” classes that built them. In their place went hastily constructed houses for workers and, eventually, the seas of virtually identical, off-white, block-like buildings and apartment complexes which infamously gave the country a “thousand cities with the same face.” But in the late-1990s, when regulations on private home ownership and sale were loosened, there was a sudden explosion in demand for commodity houses which were more aesthetically appealing than the drab concrete cubes everybody was living in and could manifest the new power of choice and wealth that a growing segment of the population suddenly found themselves with. [3]

Institutions of Plagiarism


Some Chinese company plagiarism the idea from developed country or mature market. They may steal a great idea from a western country and create a Chinese version in China. And because of the huge Chinese market, this company can make huge profit and grow up rapidly. Afterperiod of time, the Chinese company with plenitudinous fund may try to take over the western market and the original western company.


The Chinese advertising videos and billboards across New York’s Times Square, the mecca of digital ads. As their purchasing power increases, many Chinese consumers have started looking at Western brands. Therefore, Chinese companies are trying to win over domestic consumers by building a global reputation–never mind the fact that most people seeing these ads abroad do not have access to the product.


Especially in fashion, many Chinese brands masquerade as foreign to seem more upscale. La Chapelle is actually a Chinese clothing retailer; even more perplexing is a sunglasses brand named after Helen Keller. Others use nonsense words that seem foreign, like Marisfrolg or Metersbonwe, which some liken to China’s Gap.


“Clearly there’s an acknowledgement that there’s something great about Paris,” Bosker told CityLab in 2013. “But it’s also: ‘We can do it ourselves.’”[4] Indeed, a miniature Paris isn’t really an homage to the French greats of architecture; it’s more of a statement of power and control. “Rather, it’s a monument to China, which has become so rich and so mighty it can figuratively ‘own’ its own City of Lights—or Manhattan, or Venice, or White House,” Bosker told The Atlantic. And it’s important to know that a Western-duplicate exterior often belies the interior. An American-style suburban dream-home in China might also contain a traditional Chinese tearoom, or courtyard, or subtle feng-shui principles. Plus, as Bosker points out, many Chinese mimic-architects believe they will develop mastery, and eventually better ideas, through this form of rote learning. “Though Chinese architects may be replicating now, all this copying could quickly give way to creativity,” Bosker told The Atlantic. “As a resident of Shanghai’s Thames Town noted, ‘The hardware may be English, but the software is all Chinese.’”

Future story

Now comes to the most frightening part of my discussion. China has realized that they are actually very far behind the rest of the world under the rule of the Communist styled government. However with their borders now open, their have a ZEAL and hunger to learn bordering on fanatical. All this is so that they can catch up with the West whom they look towards as a place of a better life. What took the West to develop through their industrial/information age, is taking China 1/5 of the time, and perhaps even quicker. Similar to Japan, copying is only the first step. Once they learn about the inner workings of how things are done the sky’s the limit. One of my ex-colleagues recounted a story about a Chinese Manufacturer proudly showing him a 100% perfect copy of a German MRI machine at 1/10 of the price and a large contract with all the local hospitals. AN MRI MACHINE! Think about this for a moment.[5]


1.    Daniel Kulinski, 2015
2.     A movie poster, Directed by Judith Krant, 2009 3.    China Daily, Xian, 2010
4.     Abandoned building, China, 2012
5.     Aly Song, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, on August 1, 2013
6.    China Daily, Chuzhou, Anhui province, on March 27, 2015


1., Accessed Dec 2015
2.     Copycat Architecture Is Still Booming in China 3.     Why China Keeps Building So Many Western-style Copycat Towns
4.     2013’s Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary  
China, Bianca Bosker, 2013
5. Why does China copy designs?