amw (amw) wrote,

there are less cops than previously suspected

So, I gotta backtrack on a thing. China is not a police state. At least, not overtly.

When I first arrived here one of the most unnerving things for me was the ubiquitous presence of uniformed cops - at least one on every block, usually more. But I have talked to a few people now - both expats and locals - and I have come to the conclusion that the majority of these "cops" are not cops. Two separate Chinese have even described them to me using the English term "fake cops". They are actually just private security guards wearing uniforms that look a lot like a police uniforms. "But," one girl lamented, "if you ask them to help you with something, they don't know anything." Those security checkpoints at the road entrances to each big block? They're not checking papers. They are charging entry/parking fees.

The things you learn being an uninformed traveler. This is not some kind of big secret, it's common knowledge for everyone living here. But I am enjoying being a bit of a gonzo ignoramus, learning the culture in fragments rather than putting together a pretentiously authoritative expat blog. I hope y'all take my bumbling experiences for what they are.

What I find most interesting about these "fake cops" is both the fact they can openly wear authentic looking uniforms, but also that the English word "fake" is used.

The issue of intellectual property in China is a big deal right now, because American companies being lured here don't want to give up their IP (as the government demands, in certain cases) and there is a sense globally that Chinese tech is still copycat tech and not innovative. The latter belief is definitely false these days, but regarding copying in general i suspect there might be a cultural gap at play.

Here's an example. In China there are many convenience stores. Unlike in Taiwan, the market here is not dominated by 7-Eleven and FamilyMart (both Japanese chains), but almost all 24 hour convenience stores still feature white signs with two or three colored stripes. Some are literally the same colors as 7-Eleven. In another country this would probably be trademark infringement or watering down the brand somehow. But here I think people just appreciate having a quick way to identify convenience stores. I get the sense 7-Eleven should see the emulation as a compliment - they have set the standard for how convenience stores are supposed to look.

Living here you see similar instances of emulation all over the place. Phones. Clothes. Accessories. Restaurants. The works. No one is under the illusion it is the real thing. There are dozens of words for fake/counterfeit in Chinese. People buy fakes on purpose, if they can't afford the real deal. There seems to be an appreciation for the art of it. And, when speaking English, occasionally Chinese use the term "fake" to mean "looks like". I don't get the impression they always use it in a negative sense.

On the other hand, "fake news" also exists in Chinese, and that's definitely intended negatively. It even cropped up in some of my learning materials, so the term has been around for a while. That amused me more than it should have.

Anywho, "fake cops". Good enough copies to even sometimes briefly fool the locals. That's a thing.

Also, people on the street selling lotus flower heads. It's fun popping out the seeds. They are bitter and combat "inner heat". So does 王老吉 (wáng lǎo jí), an extremely popular canned/bottled herbal tea I recently fell in love with. When Chinese tell me these things combat "inner heat", all I am hearing is "you got the green light to eat more spicy food". Yes, please!

Lots going through my mind right now about my next steps, but I will make another post later.
Tags: china

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