Chen, Yi and Clarke, Robert (2011) Shanzhai products and sustainable design. In: The Tao of Sustainability: an International Conference on Sustainable Design Strategies in a Globalization Context, Beijing, China, 27th-29th October 2011. Huazhong University of Science & Technology Press, Beijing, China, pp. 575-579. ISBN 9787560973845

This paper investigates a possible solution to the need for sustainable design through a study of shanzhai products notable for their low price and quality and sometimes, even by their exaggerated design. Their existence reflects a need in China’s post-communist society to provide its population with the kinds of material goods typically associated with capitalist economies in which the advances of science and technology have been applied to the research, design and manufacture of desirable products. Political and economic expediency has meant that because of its need to ‘catch up’ with western markets, China has increasingly tended to copy western designs which it makes affordable to its own population by avoiding research and development costs.

This paper will selectively examine and define the concepts and principles of shanzhai products and compare them with those of sustainable design. Although Shanzhai is satisfying in the short-term some of the materialist demands of the Chinese population, it may also be seen as detrimental to the longer-term issues of resources, sustainability and innovation.


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