Shanzhai refers to the massive counterfeit market in China, encompassing everything from imitation smartphones and sneakers to bootleg shampoo and Coca-Cola. With the sustained rise in consumer culture in China, along with the confluence of globalization and the internet, Shanzhai has recently begun to transcend commerce into its own culture—and even a form of art. In Chinese culture, copying is considered a form of endearing admiration of one’s work as this in-depth piece points out. Despite its roots in commerce, the pirate practice continues to blur lines as counterfeit-themed artists like Shanzai Biennial go mainstream at major galleries and art fairs, and blatantly bootlegged apparel becomes high fashion, making Shanzhai a force to be recognized and considered in a global context.
The Culture of Counterfeit