Beijing’s Silk Road market peddles much more than Louis Vuitton knock-offs, and it’s only the retail arm of China’s vast, billion-dollar counterfeiting empire.
While the tourists wonder at Chinese history—from the boisterous to the cleansed, from the imperial to the Communist—they also consume another Chinese claim to fame: counterfeiting of Western products. China’s consumption of Western intellectual property has been ravenous, as any manufacturer (not just of luxury goods) can tell you. From Louis Vuitton handbags to Apple chargers to Viagra, it is all counterfeited in China. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (and anyone else who hasn’t been living under a rock), China is the number one source of counterfeited goods.
Behemoth Chinese online retailer Alibaba may have undertaken measures to clean up its act since it floated its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, but in Beijing there remains the Silk Road market: a whole shopping mall full of counterfeits, from the luxurious to the mundane.