CopycatPlagiarism 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  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.  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.