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Mission Accomplished? Not So Fast, China

apple_store.jpg

The fake Apple store in China.

CREDIT: http://birdabroad.wordpress.com

George Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech may have a new rival in unintentional comedy.

Last week China wrapped up a nine-month campaign against intellectual property right infringement just last week, after which the Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce essentially declared “mission accomplished” himself.

But an American blogger who lives in a remote city in southwest China has sparked an internet sensation after discovering several nearly flawless fake Apple stores near her home. The blogger, who lives in Kunming and goes by the pseudonym BirdAbroad, was surprised when she noticed three new Apple Stores within a 10-minute walk of each other earlier this week. But there’s one problem: Apple doesn’t have any stores anywhere near Kunming. The only authorized Apple Stores in China are in Beijing and Shanghai, both of which are around 2000 miles away from the southwestern city with a population of just over 3 million. After the story went viral, an Apple representative confirmed to the Daily Mail that the stores were “unauthorized.”

The stores are extremely convincing, but upon closer inspection, there are flaws that give them away. BirdAbroad noted several differences between the fakes and the original:

But some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly.

Apple never writes “Apple Store” on [its] signs – it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit. The name tags around the necks of the friendly salespeople didn’t actually have names on them – just an Apple logo and the anonymous designation ‘Staff.’

Yet “The measures and effectiveness of the Chinese government's operations are unprecedented,” Jiang Zengwei said at a press conference. On a new Chinese government website devoted to covering the country’s efforts at combating IPR theft, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also declared the program a success:

Forceful measures were taken to investigate and rectify the key contents, key regions, key areas and key products prone to IPR infringement and counterfeiting, to investigate and process big and major cases, and to reveal companies of misconduct and illegality so as to deter law-breakers and safeguard a market order of fair competition.

Jiang said that 9,031 individuals were arrested and 12,854 plants were shutdown as a result of the campaign. While these statistics are impressive, statements such as “I don't agree that [IPR thefts in China] arevery serious,” and that “I believe China's intellectual property right protections are at a good turning point” are quite a stretch. China has a long and documented history of piracy and copyright infringement, and, while the products sold may be real, the fake Apple stores clearly demonstrate that the issue is only getting bigger. Like the U.S. in Iraq, China’s declaration of success may just signal the start of a very long war.

Jeffrey Boxer is an intern with Campus Progress.

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