Renegades on the frontier of innovation: The shanzhai grassroots communities of Shenzhen in China's creative economy
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Two Australian researchers specializing in China's creative industries examine recent developments in southern China commonly associated with the shanzhai phenomenon (e.g., production and sale of cheap local facsimiles of globally branded goods). While shanzhai is often condemned as the embodiment of China's "knock-off" industries, the authors argue that it might be more appropriately viewed as an instance of China's emerging creative economy and an example of rapid prototyping. The paper traces the evolution of shanzhai mobile phones and the materialization of the shanzhai ethos in popular culture. In arguing that shanzhai provides inputs into creative industries, the paper describes the fuzzy boundary between formal and informal culture and notes the interaction between three spheres of activity: official culture, the market, and grassroots culture.
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