This post is a follow-up to the news story of the week. So to peak your interest, here are a couple of fast food advertisements I found here in Nanjing.
First I present to you a McDonald’s ad that I carefully sheltered from the debris of our meal. My poor wife was more than a bit embarrassed.
The father is thinking “You have one, I have one too!” McDonald’s has drawn a fair amount of criticism in the US for targeting children, but in China they have to target the adults. The restaurant was full of children snacking on a pile of hamburgers and fried chicken, but the parents weren’t eating anything. You might remember that I talked about this the other day when we were looking at some of the effects of the one child policy.
The second treat I have for you today continues our fast food theme.
My wife saw this in a foreign food shop and assumed it too was for McDonald’s. I mean check out those golden arches! Wait a second; this is just some lousy imitation of America’s proud tradition of fast food. This is a great example of why all expats here laugh when China claims to be protecting Intellectual Property Rights.
So what is the perception of IPR among the Chinese with whom you deal? Is it viewed as an unfair advantage used by foreign powers to dominate China? Do they see it as a problem as they increasingly find that their own intellectual property might also be stripped from them as they continue to advance technologically? Is is still very easy to find the latest Hollywood movies with street vendors within a few days of the time the movies hit US theatres?
Well this comment is worthy of an entire post. The short answer is; what IPR?
At work all of the computers run pirated windows xp, with pirated windows office. On every other corner are DVD shops full of the newest movies and shows (sometimes before their nationwide release in the US).
So far there hasn’t been much of a debate about protecting Chinese IPR because so much of the market here is knocked off of foreign goods.
This will be a full topic in the next few weeks.
I look forward to seeing this idea fleshed out in future posts. And I know what you mean about the knock-off goods… There are certainly two sides to this debate. On one side (particularly as it is often applied to medicinal goods) there is the argument that such goods should be made freely available to help people who would otherwise be unable to afford it. On the other side is the argument that, without some form of payment, it would be impossible to drive the R&D necessary to continue to find ways to solve some of those same medical concerns. Poor nations are often caught in the middle with little recourse in the way of resolution. The question then becomes, is China still considered to be the poor nation with that need?
To answer your last question first, I think what matters more, is whether or not China is seen as a poor country, and Newsweek already published an issue claiming that China was too rich to call itself poor.
With medical R&D I understand both arguments, but for that system to work, the rich people in China would need to pay full price for the real medicines, and the poor people would need to have access to well regulated and similar quality knockoffs. That isn’t what is happening. An insurance system that covers medicines is a better way of making medicines affordable, while making research feasible.
Also Pharmaceuticals would be just the tip of the iceberg for IPR here. Some companies argue that a large motivation for China requiring foreign companies to partner with domestic companies is so that they will be able to reverse engineer the products.