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Bunnie Huang on China's "Shanzai" Mash-Up Design Shops 181

Posted by timothy
from the gibsonstephensonesque dept.
saccade.com writes "Bunnie (of XBox hacking and Chumby fame) has written an insightful post about how a new phenomena emerging out of China called 'Shanzai' has impacted the electronics business there. A new class of innovators, they're going beyond merely copying western designs to producing electronic "mash-ups" to create new products. Bootstrapped on small amounts of capital, they range from shops of just a few people to a few hundred. They rapidly create new products, and use an "open source" style design community where design ideas and component lists are shared."
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Bunnie Huang on China's "Shanzai" Mash-Up Design Shops

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  • by mpoulton (689851) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:07AM (#27009007)
    This is why the US is falling behind faster than we think. We are more governmentally encumbered and less capitalist than China in many ways!
    • by KibibyteBrain (1455987) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:34AM (#27009103)
      This is also part of the problem in outsourcing the actual industrial production of all this stuff. It's really hard to remain innovative and relevant when you design by CAD tool only. This whole idea of design here produce there is just not sustainable for very long. Daily hands on experience with a wide variety of actual manufacturing technologies and techniques is part of what made the US innovative before and is what of what will make China innovative in the future.
      • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:32AM (#27009357) Homepage Journal

        I think another part of the problem is when engineers, mathematicians and so on graduate and work for the financial services industry. So they design the latest fad financial service rather than the latest fad electronic device.

        At least electronic devices don't up end entire economies like intellectually bankrupt financial services apparently can.

      • This is one of the two reasons why I admire Steve Wozniak as a person. He's a tinkerer at heart. He'll sit down at a table with various parts and put together something that's cool. Engineering is like lego for geniuses.

        .

        .

        (The other reason I admire Woz is for his sweet, pimped-out Segway.)

    • by mochan_s (536939) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:13AM (#27009285)

      This is why the US is falling behind faster than we think. We are more governmentally encumbered and less capitalist than China in many ways!

      Why is it that with China the first reflex is always "us vs them" like the parent post?

      The Chinese will innovate with the resources that the Chinese have while the US will innovate with the resources that the Americans have (note no us and they).

      I don't understand why people feel that it would be better if the Chinese were deprived of this opportunity. I would be more inclined to say "join the party", the "more the merrier" in the engineer's club.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Why is it that with China the first reflex is always "us vs them" like the parent post?

        Because humanity thrives on conflict in all aspects of their lives. See: religion, politics, sports, romance, games, etc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
        When browsing comments by Chinese, you will very, very often see the phrase "We Chinese" (women zhongguoren). They consider themselves as different from Americans as ants are different from dirt. Superior, actually - culturally, morally, and physically. You have to realize that years of viewing things like "Sex and the City" has done tremendous damage to the view of Americans from China's viewpoint.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          It amuses me that the average hater of "American Cultural Imperialism" knows more about those shows than I do.
        • by Chrisq (894406)

          You have to realize that years of viewing things like "Sex and the City" has done tremendous damage to the view of Americans from China's viewpoint.

          From my point of view too

      • by jabithew (1340853) on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:58AM (#27009957)

        Because people are stupid and think economics is a zero-sum game. This leads to the chain;

        China is getting richer.
        If China is getting richer, someone is getting poorer.
        We are getting poorer.

        Whereas the only thing that holds is the first. If China is getting richer, it means they have more money to buy things from the US/EU and less competitive labour!

        • The Chinese getting richer actually does have a negative impact on the United States.

          The rate at which the Chinese economy is growing is faster than the rate at which the global economy is growing.

          The difference between the rate of global expansion and the rate of chinese expansion is growth that is lost by everybody else.

          So while the economy is not a zero sum game you can still have the growth of one economy have a negative impact on others.

          • The Chinese getting richer actually does have a negative impact on the United States.

            The rate at which the Chinese economy is growing is faster than the rate at which the global economy is growing.

            The difference between the rate of global expansion and the rate of chinese expansion is growth that is lost by everybody else.

            So while the economy is not a zero sum game you can still have the growth of one economy have a negative impact on others.

            The economy is also not a fixed-sum game; China growing faster makes the global economy grow faster, rather than making the US economy grow slower.

            • Except that there genuinely is a limit to the rate of growth in the global economy.
              • Except that there genuinely is a limit to the rate of growth in the global economy.

                Which is...?

                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by brizzadizza (1195159)

                  Most likely it will be tied to the rate at which natural resources can be extracted from the land. This can be mitigated to some degree by greater demand for natural resources causing new extraction businesses, but that will not in all cases completely counter a very large demand. Many industries like mining concerns, oil refineries, oil wells and chemical plants take many years to go through planning, permitting, construction, production. All of that prevents "the market" from responding to the increase

        • While what you say COULD be true, it is false in this one. The only way for it to be true is if money is freely traded AND all trade barriers are dropped AND they are not required to have a cleaned up env. China has their money fixed against the dollar (a basket is still fixed by the gov), AND they have not dropped their trade barriers and china is one of the most polluted countries on this planet. If they would free their money, it would double overnight. Likewise, if they dropped their trade barriers, th
          • by TheLink (130905)
            Can you tell me how China is screwing the USA more than the USA is screwing China?

            0) The USA has been buying stuff (like oil) with money (USD) that they can create out of nothing.
            1) The USA has also been buying Chinese stuff, with money that the Chinese has lent the USA.
            2) The USA is considering printing yet more money (lending yourself money, promising to pay yourself back in decades is practically the same as printing it) to get itself out of a huge mess that it mainly created.
            3) If the USA prints US doll
        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          China is getting richer.
          If China is getting richer, someone is getting poorer.
          We are getting poorer.

          You should've stopped there, you were doing so well.

          History has never followed any course but the one above when there are multiple groups of people working within the same ecosystem. Someone is always taking from someone else, with one group getting richer and the other poorer, regardless of economic systems and theories.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RichiH (749257)

        Because the first world is scared of the low-wage Wirtschaftswunder which Japan, Korea, Taiwan etc showed us. Only there is over a billion people in China. 10-20 years more and the next billion, the Indians, join the party for real. And by _that_ time, the Africans will be where China & India are now.

        Where the former first world will be is anybody's guess, really.

        I can understand both 'their' and 'our' pov.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think that the post you quote wasn't calling for the Chinese to be deprived of the opportunity; but for us to recapture it for ourselves.

        Competition of the "if I can't have it I don't want you to have it" school is mean-spirited and rather unproductive; but the "interesting idea you have there, I should look into that" school has been responsible for a great deal of progress, and seems to be what grandparent was driving at.

        Whether one likes the fact or not, it is undeniably the case that contemporar
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Why is it that with China the first reflex is always "us vs them" like the parent post? The Chinese will innovate with the resources that the Chinese have while the US will innovate with the resources that the Americans have (note no us and they). I don't understand why people feel that it would be better if the Chinese were deprived of this opportunity. I would be more inclined to say "join the party", the "more the merrier" in the engineer's club."

        Because...live IS a constant contest to try to come o

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        The Chinese will innovate with the resources that the Chinese have while the US will innovate with the resources that the Americans have (note no us and they).

        Yet, we have no resources. Yes, we can design; but what happens when we want or need to produce, and nobody wants to take (or is prohibited from taking by their government) our money?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jandersen (462034)

      We are more governmentally encumbered and less capitalist than China in many ways!

      Funny you should say that. To my mind this is the spirit of socialism at its best - the people at the bottom working together rather than each individual competing against each other. Open source is another prime example of what socialism and communism was really about before powerhungry egomaniacs like Stalin and Lenin took out a patent on the idea.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        communism hasn't worked anywhere. it ignores basic human nature.
        • by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Friday February 27, 2009 @08:09AM (#27010275)
          Basic human nature is cooperative.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by AvitarX (172628)

            Probably true for the majority, but there are enough people who who go out of their way to take advantage of others to make a society relying on that basic cooperation not work.

            So the fix inevitably becomes iron grip nasty government. Of course the people that are comfortable in such a position of power are not particularly nice people, so it becomes worse over time, as the good people get killed or leave.

          • by CAIMLAS (41445)

            Cooperative? Where do you get that idea? From my seat on the boat, it looks like it's fundamentally competitive and controlling. The Romans didn't come to power because they were 'cooperative' - it was because they controlled what they had and competed for everything else.

            A part of human nature is cooperation, yes, though it is a fundamentally different approach. It can yield similar results, but it requires the participants to be internally motivated - often through grandiose speech, FUD, or something like

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jandersen (462034)

          communism hasn't worked anywhere

          Most families are working models of communism - the family shares its possessions etc. It's true that many of the states that have called themselves "Communist" have failed, most notably the Soviet Union, but the question still remains whether this was because of communism or because of other factors - such as the permanent state of conflict with the Western world, the general incompetence of its leaders, the extreme paranoia of the same or whatever. I would say that it is impossible to have a stable societ

    • There are various problems, one being outsourcing which means the knowledge is exported (which in itself is not a bad thing if you can stay competitive), but I think the biggest problem is the patent law (which is seen as capitalistic enough probably), while china also has a patent law they simply do not care about it.
      Guess what how the USA became big, they ignored european patents. Same happens now in china which has a bigger embracement of knowledge sharing in society than the west!
      Guess what would happen

    • by Ice Tiger (10883)

      Notice the lack of patent lawyers being featured in that article.

      Quite telling I think.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Less governmentally encumbered, maybe; less capitalist? Doubtful.

      I recall reading somewhere about these "shanzai" shops a while ago. Basically, they're a sort of government-sanctioned and organized cooperative: they offer a large handful of "open to China" designs from which a company can base their products. Remember that $100 "HiVision" laptop from China with a MIPS processor? Yeah, that was one of the many Chinese-Nationalist-sourced products. You'll find variations of the same exact hardware platform (d

  • by jsse (254124) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:15AM (#27009041) Homepage Journal
    Literally 'Shanzhai' means a fortress on a mountain in Chinese, but it's a equivalent to 'garage' in western terms of innovation process. Both means making things at low cost, labour intensive environment, but doesn't necessarily refer to making things in a real garage or a actual mountain fortress.

    Often case the term 'Shanzhai' production implies 'cheap and dirty, but work'. Say, we procure electronic parts from a 'Shanzhai' factory, we expect them to be cheap but not with very high quality.
    • by KlaymenDK (713149) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:06AM (#27009239) Journal

      Remind me again, how did Apple start?

      I think that this sounds more like a new type of consumer-producer than just piracy, and that the "mash-up" is an apt comparison.
      These guys may end up revamping a part of the market with their "hardware shareware", and if they do, I say more power to them. Especially since they are doing more than just plain copies, they are producing products that are, arguably, "improved" models.

      Quoth the article, "contemporary shanzhai are rebellious, individualistic, underground, and self-empowered innovators" ... which one of those does the marketplace *not* need? (Mark you, I say "need", not "want"; I'm quite sure they want none of it, but will nonetheless have more of it than they like.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

        The likes of an Apple, HP and such to start out making hardware out of a garage like these people do, seem to be diminishing. I don't know if any US garage company can build a custom phone from the circuits on up these days. Designing computers from circuits is probably too expensive of a job now for a garage company. Assuming they do it, the buyer is not going to be consumer, maybe commercial, industrial, government or military uses can justify the expense, but a garage company probably has too low of a

      • by N1AK (864906) on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:01AM (#27009697) Homepage

        Especially since they are doing more than just plain copies, they are producing products that are, arguably, "improved" models.

        If they are as good as that, then surely they don't need to rip off Apple's branding to be a success?

        The current implementation of Patents is harming innovation by legitimate businesses, that does not mean that companies should not be able to protect any form of new development for a limited period of time. Currently the nations with the loosest attitude to IP are the ones with the least to gain by cracking down on it, do you think that in 10 years time when there are a few Chinese owned firms actually pushing development the of new products forward the Chinese government won't be much keener to ensure IP rules are followed in other countries?

        • by KlaymenDK (713149)

          Especially since they are doing more than just plain copies, they are producing products that are, arguably, "improved" models.

          If they are as good as that, then surely they don't need to rip off Apple's branding to be a success?

          No, but they might the "free" marketing provided by piggybacking on top of established brand recognition.

          And oh yes, I'm quite sure the governments of the Asian countries that are currently hot with piracy will reverse their positions on IP once the companies in those countries mature enough to "go legit". They want a piece of the cake now, but they will not want to share with others later. (Not to troll, but is this not similar to what the US has been doing since they became sovereign?)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
        Apple started by ripping off designs from existing manufacturers in the 70s? I think you might have done too much acid if that's how you remember things.
        • by KlaymenDK (713149)

          I can't tell if you were aiming for a Funny rating, but I'll elaborate in case you weren't.

          They started out as a number of individuals tinkering in a garage, partaking in the creation of a totally new market that changed the whole perspective of 'computing'. I guess these guys are doing the same for 'gadgets'.

          And, well, I won't say they did NOT borrow bits from here and there. But then again, those were the days when neat tricks were shared in the computer club instead of (as nowadays) taken to the patents

          • and I do think that that was a good thing overall (if not for the original inventors of the ideas).

            Oh, I dunno. Jobs and Wozniak made out all right, so did Hewlett and Packard, and any number of companies founded along similar lines over the years. That was, of course, before the rise of Intellectual Property law, and the parasites who milk it for all its worth.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
            Shanzhai manufacturers are NOT into sharing with others, not at all. Making a spiffy product, following environmental laws, and not ripping off your workers...no reward for that. Someone sees your product, says "gee, that's nifty!" and proceeds to produce a shabby but just-works-enough copy, undercuts you, dumps all of his byproducts into a hole next to a farming village, and witholds his workers' pay for two months before paying half of it and threatening any complainers with beatdowns.

            Yup, just like A

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Zerth (26112)

              Except for the toxic waste bit, that does sound like working for Steve Jobs.

              If he goes on chemo, then it will be exactly like working for Steve Jobs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gzipped_tar (1151931)
      Shanzhai in Chinese refers to a camp or basement of mountain bandits in the original meaning.
    • by mathfeel (937008)
      The added "h" means you have to pronounce the consenent with a curling-tongue, quite unnatural for western speakers.

      Shanzhai usually means a mountain strong hold of bandits. I suppose the potentially illegal part here is with respect to IP laws? Then again, the Chinese never quite respected those in the first place.

      I was reading somewhere that there was even an SZ version of the Chinese New Year TV show---the bigger show in China---this year because people are sick and tired of the official TV channel
  • by hwyhobo (1420503) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:26AM (#27009077)

    For temporary profit (that few have participated in) we have outsourced ourselves into irrelevance. As the purchasing power of the increasingly service-based economy diminishes, so do the profits. It is a shortsighted policy - something that MBAs excel at.

    • It is a shortsighted policy - something that MBAs excel at.

      Worse, I know some who are proud of what they've done.

  • Smart; Very smart (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:31AM (#27009091)
    Several thoughts;
    1. Our IP is getting in our way. That is why our forefathers created SHORT TERM IP rights. Now, it is just a money maker for a bit longer, but is KILLING the west.
    2. I have thought that if I had money, I would buy some of the plastic fabs as well as electronic fabs that remain in America. Then I would set up SMALLamount manufactuering and ask for ideas. THe approach would be that if an idea came across, then cut a deal with the person(s) to build it, and sell it, and give them a cut. This is done, but typically only after somebody has done 99% of the leg work. That is so that somebody feels protected, but does little good. Better to get the idea in, work with person, and use real experts.

    The west will lose unless we get smart and change. China is in this for the long haul. They keep their yuan pegged to the dollar, keep up their trade barriers, and then gripe when our economy is crashing. In the meantime, they are building 2-4 NEW NUKE subs EACH YEAR. It borrow HEAVILY from western ideas.

    • Re:Smart; Very smart (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:37AM (#27009119)

      Our IP is getting in our way. That is why our forefathers created SHORT TERM IP rights. Now, it is just a money maker for a bit longer, but is KILLING the west.

      Not to mention the 150 year-after-Disneys-death copyright. That really helps preserve the wealth of the rich, but at the cost of a stagnating society.

      • by Bryan Ischo (893)

        Please explain that one to me. How do long copyrights cause stagnation in society? If anything I would expect them to encourage the creation of new works, because the copyrighted work in question will always cost money, so there is always room to compete with it. But if the copyright expires, the work becomes free, and thus unprofitable to compete with. So I would expect more people to be involved in creating new works if there is a market for creating competitors to already-copyrighted works. If there

    • by KlaymenDK (713149) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:13AM (#27009283) Journal

      There are already a number of small-amount manufacturers, as you call them. Some are prototyping shops, some will build any number of items for you.

      http://www.emachineshop.com/ [emachineshop.com]
      http://www.tapplastics.com/ [tapplastics.com]
      http://www.pad2pad.com/ [pad2pad.com]
      http://www.olimex.com/ [olimex.com]
      http://www.eurocircuits.com/ [eurocircuits.com]
      (no affiliation to any of them)

      But you have to supply a sellable idea that's not been done yet, and bear the cost of iterating the bugs out of the design.

      Also, and more to the point, the burden of IP is on your shoulders; at least, they're just punching out parts on your behalf and AFAIK that's not been contested in court as of yet.

    • IMHO, the fact that patent licenses aren't automatically recursive is absolutely perverse. Under current law, if you buy something made with a patented part, modify it, and sell it, you can be sued for infringement even though the part in question was fully licensed at the time of purchase. That's perverse. The mere fact that most people are shocked (if they even believe you) when you tell them shows that our elected officials have become seriously disconnected from society's consensus about IP law.

      If I wan

      • Fat chance your sane approach will be passed into law.
        USA is under a slow, ever-increasing vise squeeze.
        Brought on by millions of laws, millions of lawsuits which can bankrupt an entire family, and police high-handedness which result in mix-tape makers being sentenced to 20 yrs in prison.
        Innovation thrives where compeition is open and need to survive is unencumbered by protectionists.
        Apple invented the iPhone and settled a number of lawsuits and still defending some.
        Same with iPod.
        Same with PC by HP (sued b

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      Several thoughts;

      1. Our IP is getting in our way. That is why our forefathers created SHORT TERM IP rights. Now, it is just a money maker for a bit longer, but is KILLING the west.

      IP rights have their uses. I happen to know that China has cloned processors and that are unlicensed. Inside China anything you buy will use one of those. For the export market Chinese companies have to import legal components from somone who has a license. So if you work for US processor manufacturer for example, IP law is protecting your job. I suspect that if you have an engineering job in a rich country, IP licensing is one of the things that pays your salary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Stray7Xi (698337)

        For the export market Chinese companies have to import legal components from somone who has a license. So if you work for US processor manufacturer for example, IP law is protecting your job. I suspect that if you have an engineering job in a rich country, IP licensing is one of the things that pays your salary.

        GP was complaining about long term IP rights. So in effect you're saying that we're protecting the Pentium 2 processor from being copied (released 1997). I think it's had enough time with protection and should be allowed to be copied

  • by BananaPeel (747003) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:46AM (#27009157)

    For those intereseted there is small write up with a few pics on the cultural aspects of Shan zhai on:
    http://chinayouthology.com/blog/?p=369 [chinayouthology.com]

    Talking to friends in China last week "Shan zhai" anything is a hot word in china now, being applied to mobile phone, fashion, whatever.

    While I was there I offered over half a dozen iphone look alikes which can be bought from around 1000 yuan (~£110)

  • First they copy a cellphone, they add a pocket knife to it so it doesn't violate the patent. That gets patented, so they add microscope to it. That gets patented, so they add a printing press to it. And before long we're all carrying around =!iphones with all the useless features of Sharper Image products in our pockets. I can't wait to see what they do with a swiss army knife.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is amazing, great stuff. And this is emergin in capitalistic (sic!) China, as a natural way of doing business. By natural I mean not bound by copyright/patent laws, free flow of ideas - things we all love in open source *can* be moved to other markets as well and it is great example.

    Wondering if we shouldn't run some campaign that'd allow this kind of things happen in EU?

    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:26AM (#27009829) Homepage
      +2 insightful? WTF? Shanzhai manufacturing is RIPPING OFF OTHER PEOPLE'S IDEAS, it has nothing to do with innovation, open source, etc. You think a Shanzhai manufacturer is going to let me into his factory and inspect his line? Maybe he'll post his CAD drawings and mold milling specifications on the web? Make a forum post where he reveals the specific material he uses, his suppliers, and the prices and contract terms he got from them? You want to see what shanzhai manufacturing makes? Crapity-crap like this janky fake Wii [taobao.com]. I guarantee there's no way it will last more than six months, guarantee it. It's not open source at all, free flow of ideas? If by free flow, you mean one-way flow - to the shanzhai guy and not the other way around. It's "let me rip you off, make a cheap crap copy, add a couple of features from OTHER people's work (features that are probably not well-thought-out, nor integrated well with existing features) and sell it at a discount by disobeying all environmental regulations (China DOES have them), and forcing my workers to work overtime for free otherwise I'll fire them and have them beaten by thugs if they complain. I know more manufacturers than you do, buddy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by manekineko2 (1052430)

        Maybe you should read the article before you rant.

        "Interestingly, the shanzhai employ a concept called the âoeopen BOMâ â" they share their bill of materials and other design materials with each other, and they share any improvements made; these rules are policed by community word-of-mouth, to the extent that if someone is found cheating they are ostracized by the shanzhai ecosystem."

        It's actually kinda like the GPL. The Shanzhai guys aren't going to share their stuff with you, because you'r

        • Maybe you should visit a few shanzhai factories before you start spouting off about topics you are uneducated about. This "open BOM" is just the typical clannishness...Chinese always have their favorite people, people they went to school with, hometown folks, distant relations, and so on. The term is guanxi. Of course you help people in your network - they'll be able to help you someday. Just this week I myself cut one of my monthly expenses by 88% due to a relationship that I had nurtured, and it final
  • Cf. Silicon Valley (Score:5, Insightful)

    by femto (459605) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:46AM (#27009645) Homepage

    The big thing going for the Shan Zhai is that their component makers are just around the corner. Need a touch screen for you iPhone knock off? Duck across town and talk to "Joe" and buy a few crate fulls off him. No long distance language barriers, freighting, delay, currency exchange or other things that an kill momentum in a project. It's not that different to Silicon Valley, in that it is effectively a technology shopping mall for engineers.

    Compare that to Australia, where I live. Manufacturing base is close to zlich. Components have to be procured from overseas and local distributors are just not interested. Most time and effort goes into procurement rather than design. Better be sure of your design too, as deciding to make a design change involves a while new procurement cycle. No ducking down to "the local" to get a replacement. As an engineer, I'm envious.

  • The way these companies are trying to find winning combinations in the market is very simple, they iterate through 2,3,4-dimensional space of gadget combinations.
    Righ now it seems they are at stage 3, combining 3 things together for instance usb-mouse/heater/skype handset.
    It is just their way of "innovation", they have almost infinite resources - money, people, factories so they try different combinations.
    Kind of like brute-forcing crypto key instead of finding weakness in algorithm.

  • Grrr. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Friday February 27, 2009 @07:28AM (#27010081)

    This was happening years ago, back in 2005 in my last trip for example.

    What is really behind this is a business that is not shackled by the same leg irons that cripple development in the west - for example accountability, itellectual property, patenting, copyright, health and safety, quality management and so on.

    The gist of the problem is that you can either have development that is ethical, safe, manageable, legal, and controlled.... or you can development that is rapid, fluid and prone to appropiate and adapt any idea that fits the bill.

    It is impossible to have both.

    In China you see an emphasis on the latter and in the west you have the former, this is a culture clash of epic proportions. At the end of the day we are all to blame, we all like the idea of promoting western businesses and industry - but we all have a greater desire for cheap DVD players and iPhone clones.

    Yes I can appreciate the rapid, innovative engineering this trend shows in China - but behind it is a clash of cultures and ethical and moral decisions that have decimated industy and development in the western world.

    • Yes I can appreciate the rapid, innovative engineering this trend shows in China - but behind it is a clash of cultures and ethical and moral decisions that have decimated industy and development in the western world.

      It's more of a trade-off (something any engineer worth his salt understands very clearly.) The truth is, we're both heading in the same direction, it's just that we're farther along the curve than China. You think the manufacturing sector in the U.S. was any different than China's before the advent of worker protection and environmental law? Believe me, it was a chamber of horrors similar to what China's workers are suffering in now.

      The problem is, neither our current approach nor China's can be maintain

    • The gist of the problem is that you can either have development that is ethical, safe, manageable, legal, and controlled.... or you can development that is rapid, fluid and prone to appropiate and adapt any idea that fits the bill.

      Or you can have development that's rapid and fluid and can appropriate and adapt useful ideas, and is also safe and ethical. "Manageable" and "controlled" sound like they're only useful if you're large enough to have "outsider" shareholders, and "Legal" just requires fixing (removing?) the patent system.

      It is impossible to have both.

      Drop "controlled" and probably "manageable", and I think you get something like Sillicon Valley is/was.

    • While you have identified the differences, it is really not China vs. Western world.

      The western world did not care about ethical, safe, manageable, legal, and controlled from the beginning. These have been driven by growing income, market consolidation (to the large companies,) as well as efforts of your beloved politicians and lawyers.

      Similarly, all third world countries are practicing "rapid, fluid and prone to appropriate and adapt any idea that fits the bill."

      The same trend is undertaking in China bu

  • by mbourgon (186257) on Friday February 27, 2009 @11:02AM (#27011679) Homepage

    "I heard a local comment about how great it was that the shanzhai could not only make an iPhone clone, they could improve it by giving the clone a user-replaceable battery[...]I can't help but wonder out loud if mashup in hardware is all that bad."

    Adding a user-replaceable battery does not make it a mashup. The combination cell-phone/racecar, sure. But that? That's just a knock-off.

  • Once a term used to suggest something cheap or inferior, shanzhai now suggests to many a certain Chinese cleverness and ingenuity. Shanzhai culture "is from the grass roots and for the grass roots," says Han Haoyue, a media critic in Beijing, who sees it as a means of self-expression.

    Sounds to me like "hack" or "hacker".

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment. -- Robert Benchley

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