Tech Trend: Shanzhai

March 6th, 2009 by Jeff

bunnie writes:

The shanzhai of China are a tech trend to keep an eye on. Typically dismissed by popular press as simply the “copycat barons from China”, I think they may have something in common with Hewlett and Packard or Jobs and Wozniak back when they were working out of garages. I’ve heard quite a few stories about the shanzhai while on my most recent trip to China, some of which I will share here.

Shanzai

bunnie’s blog » Blog Archive » Tech Trend: Shanzhai

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2 Responses to “Tech Trend: Shanzhai”

  1. Sean says:

    It all very closely parallels the Japanese Junk era where the Japanese were dismissed as copycats, producing cars that still had the beer can labels showing on the insides of the doors, only able to reverse engineer other country’s products and reproduce it.

    Mazda 626 Engine -> Field repairable BMW 1800 SOHC Hemi engine

    Toyota 4M -> Mercedes 280D SOHC engine made into a gasoline engine

    Nissan L18 -> Based on Mercedes Diesel SOHC 4-cylinder made field repairable

    Toyota Landcruiser 6 -> Chevy 235 <- Note, only Overhead Valve engine in the bunch. They already understood that current American Tech was over and done with in the engine market and went for the European Overhead Cam engines.

    The 80′s were the “Great American Catchup” where US auto manufacturers had to finally relicense fuel injection technology from Robert Bosch in Germany who had bought all the Bendix fuel injection patents, putting American fuel injection adoption back a decade while GM, Ford and Chrysler tried all ways to make carburetors electronically controllable. Of these, Chrysler was actually the most innovative in coming up with their own fuel injection designs to get around the Robert Bosch patents.

    The Japanese tore down, copied, improved and then after a generation, improved the alloys, casting, machining and assembly to come up with their own engine designs that out performed and outlasted the competition.

    Chinese electronics is currently in that period, but I’m aready seeing the breakout from copying and improving to new innovation.

    • Jeff says:

      I think it’s fascinating – exciting and scary at the same time. It’s becoming so easy for one person to start designing electronics these days that when you combine that with the ability to source any component, get boards fabbed, assembled, tested, etc… there are some interesting possibilities there.


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