From Luii Veidon handbags and Caiwen Klain underwear to HiPhones and Rolaix watches, Chinese-made counterfeit products gained considerable notoriety - and a thriving market - both at home and abroad. Yet, in 2020, shanzhai (counterfeit) mobile phones already seem like a last-century story in China. By contrast, shanzhai can still be seen widely across the 'global south'. Precisely because of this perhaps, shanzhai is often portrayed as little more than lower-end globalisation, as a straightforward manufacture and circulation of counterfeit goods.
However, as Zairong Xiang argues, there may be more to the shanzhai phenomenon than meets the economist's eye. Exploring shanzhai not only as a form and product of globalisation, but also as a theory and practice of life- and world-making, he questions boundaries between high- and low-end, decent and indecent, different and indifferent. What is real and what is fake, who decides and how?
Dr. Zairong Xiang is a research fellow in the DFG Research Training Group minor cosmopolitanisms at Potsdam University and Alumnus of the University of Tuebingen. He is author of the book Queer Ancient Way: A Decolonial Exploration (punctum books, 2018); the chief curator of the “minor cosmopolitan weekend” at the HKW Haus der Kulturen der Welt (2018) and editor of its catalogue minor cosmopolitan: Thinking Art, Politics and the Universe Together Otherwise (Diaphanes, 2020). He has co-edited the special issue “The Ontology of the Couple” (2019) at GLQ, and the special issue “Hyperimage” for the journal New Art 新美術(2018). He is working on two projects, respectively dealing with the concepts of “transdualism” and “counterfeit.”