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Knock It Off

14 June 2011 No Comment

The Chinese have gotten pretty fancy in their effort to make an exact replica of everything the world has ever made. From tee shirts to aircraft carriers this is a country built on reverse engineering. It’s not just physical items either, you get the sense watching the evening news that they simply pasted over CNN’s logo and pushed play (though they did manage to remove much of the content as well…)

I’ve profited from the Chinese ability to recreate consumer items with ease. A few days ago I bought a pair of Billabong board shorts for $8 and a Swiss backpack for $10. I thought the backpack was an especially high quality knockoff that I asked my translator if it was real and she laughed and said “Ho, ho! It is impossible that it is real.” So much for self-delusion.

The shorts still look great, but the bag had a shot run at the top. Less than two weeks after my purchase the right strap began to tear and in less than a week it had torn completely off. It was about this time that my girlfriend decided we needed to check out Li-Ning, a sports brand store not unlike Nike with the just-off-copyright catchphrase of “Anything is Possible” and ode to the once-popular Adidas ad series “Impossible is Nothing.” The store isn’t knock offs but the temptation to steal something was too great. (“Violet’s turning … violet”)

Inside I saw a brilliant pair of ping-pong specific shoes that needed to be purchased (I hadn’t brought anything presentable to put on my feet). As I coveted a Dodger blue set of kicks, my girlfriend perused for a pair of her own. She failed to find anything but at checkout I was prompted (via calculator) to buy a pair of socks so that my total would crest 300 RMB and thus trigger a 150 RMB discount on my next purchase – even though there was no next purchase.

We were loitering in the store hemming and hawing over which breathable fabric would look best on our person during a game of ping when Kristen noticed Lin-Ning also sold backpacks. I tried one on, thought it was the bees knees and plopped it on the counter and Kristen did the same for herself. I tugged hard on the straps, ran my fingers along all the seems and concluded that this bag, unlike all that I had seen and worn in China was actually authentic, that Li-Ning and China had provided me the genuine article.

And maybe they did: Anything is Possible.

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