Living in China, the land of designer fakes, it's hard to be surprised at the counterfeit goods for sale. Fake Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton handbags and Apple iPods can be found on almost every street corner in the center of Beijing. The quality of most fakes is poor, but the triple-A quality fakes are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
When I was walking around last weekend, I did get a surprise: an entirely fake building on a downtown street corner. And not just any old corner, either; it's on one of the most famous shopping streets in the country, Wangfujing, the Chinese equivalent of Oxford Street in London or Times Square in New York. Wangfujing Street is a major draw for Chinese visitors to Beijing and foreign tourists.
Most product fakes are damaging to the original brand, infringe on intellectual and creative copyrights and affect a company's profits. In cases involving food or medicine, they can even be hazardous.
This fake, however, actually benefits the city, as it is part of an Olympic overhaul. Beijing's local government has worked hard over the last couple of years to clean up the city.
Many areas in Beijing scheduled for future development have been completely bulldozed and boarded up with colorful Olympic signage. Older buildings have been repainted to look more modern.
To improve air quality for the Olympic Games, the city halted all construction work, leaving some unsightly half-finished buildings.
The enormous fake building on Wangfujing Street in one of the most prestigious retail and office areas is a computer illustration, printed on vinyl film, glued to panels and attached on the unfinished concrete skeleton of an eight-story building. The building site is huge -- it takes over five minutes to walk around the whole development.
The most surprising thing about this "building" is the quality of the production and how realistic it appears at first glance. It did make me wonder how many people rushing by this busy street corner even realized that they had just passed Beijing's biggest fake.
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