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China's biggest knockoff?

[ 2010-12-14 15:33]     字号 [] [] []  
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China's biggest knockoff?

Reader question:

Please explain “knockoff” in this headline: “Why ‘state capitalism’ is China’s biggest knockoff” (Enter the Dragon, by John Cassidy, New Yorker.com, December 10, 2010).

My comments:

Knockoff is a colloquialism for a counterfeit, a copy of the original product.

Usually a copy of the original without permission, hence intellectual property violations.

And a knockoff is usually much cheaper than the original, which is why it’s appealing to the average customer. An original Rolex watch worn, for example, by tennis player Roger Federer, who speaks for the luxury brand, may cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the Beijing street, however, you may have a counterfeit Rolex for 100 kuai. Here, of course, bargaining is also key. The watch may have a list price for 500 kuai, but if you’re good at bargaining, you may have it for 100 or less. That means you’ve knocked (reduced) 400 kuai or more off its list price.

Yes, you can use “knock off” as a verbal phrase.

Back to China’s “state capitalism”.

In the New Yorker piece, staff writer John Cassidy argues that “state capitalism” is not a Chinese invention. Far from it – it’s just another one of those things China has successfully copied from the West, in exactly the same way that local vendors have made copies of Rolex watches and in the same way Fujian’s shoemakers have churned out NKIE (people easily mistaking it for NIKE) sneakers.

Cassidy goes on to argue, the way I see it at any rate, that since “state capitalism” (which involves heavy government intervention and support for key industries) is not China’s invention (Britain, America, Germany and Japan have all done it), then perhaps Westerners should not regard China’s “authoritarian model” as something so Chinese, evil and threatening. In Cassidy’s own words:

“Far from subverting the Western way of doing business, the developing world is, at last, stealing some of its tricks.”

Mr. Cassidy continues to contend that instead of viewing China as a threat and enemy, the West, and America in particular, should embrace China as an indispensible partner. Again, in Cassidy’s words:

From its vast purchases of Treasury bonds to its central role in lowering the cost of many consumer goods, China is an invaluable trade partner of the United States, and should be treated as such rather than as a potential enemy. This is an issue where fairness and self-interest come together. In its leader this week, the Economist says: “The best way to turn China into an opponent is to treat it as one.” Amen to that!

True, China’s economic model is nothing new even though it’s officially called capitalism with Chinese characteristics.

Oops! Chinese socialism with capitalistic characteristics.

Oops – Let’s try it again, socialism with Chinese characteristics!

That’s it. Well, you know what I mean. Whatever they may call it, you will understand so long as you maintain a good sense of balance (and irony). And while I support Cassidy’s assessment in general (the fact that it’s a rarity to read a fair-minded piece in the Western media about China makes one inclined to be supportive of a piece such as Dassidy’s), I feel like adding that, intellectual property considerations aside, the “state” in “state capitalism” is not the root of all evil, be it German or Japanese, British or American.

The evil lies instead in “capitalism”.

But that’s not an argument Cassidy cares to make, of course and I don’t blame him. The evils of capitalism is simply not an “in” topic today anywhere, neither here nor in America.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)