Recently Jack Ma, the famed founder of Ali Baba was quoted to have said that Chinese fake goods can be as good as the real deal, is it true? Being on the ground in China a lot, you see a ton of knock off goods with the most famous markets being the Silk Market in Beijing and the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum subway stop. I myself covet the intellectual property rights that have made for great amounts of innovation in Western countries over the years, and if this is violated all over the world, we’ll have a slowdown in innovation. However, after seeing a plethora of these things you almost need a microscope in some cases to figure out if the item is real or fake.
If you think this is just a seedy back alley guy with a trench coat saying, hey kid, want a Rolex? Think again. The Faux goods markets of China are huge and well organized. In fact, they are usually included in most tour group packages that take you through Beijing. The silk market in Beijing has photos on the wall of many US presidents and foreign leaders browsing the local goods. While these items don’t interest me myself, several friends that visit China like to take home a gift or two for the family and the detail on the watches is amazing. The difference between a $100,000 Patek Phillipe and the Chinese counterpart is really hard to spot. Heck, since most people don’t get to see many of those in their lifetime, they’d never know how to tell it apart from the real McCoy if it was on your wrist anyway.
The Rolexes are the obvious buy for most foreigners as this is the most common luxury watch they know of, so the factories have paid the most attention to detail when it comes to those as they are in such high demand. For most of the submariner watches, you would almost have to open them and see the clockwork to figure it out. They are all automatic now, not battery operated, so the second hand has the signature sweep. The basic way of telling from the outside is looking closely at the placement of the Cyclops magnifier over the date, but even then, it would take an expert to figure it out.
The electronics are more of a mixed bag. You can definitely see and hear a quality difference between a real beats headset and a phony. Shoes and apparel also look nice upon first examination, but the lack of attention to detail in many of those products are much easier to spot than the watches.
Again, not to support Ma’s claim that phony goods are as good as the real deal, but the question herein lies, can some of these goods really be so different that they are worth several thousands of dollars more than ones made by the Chinese? Maybe we all need to rethink our material values.