China's fast follow model

These photos from an abandoned Disneyland-like construction project in China caught my eye, in part because they were familiar yet not.

This is in contrast to many of China's more famous undertakings which are outright knockoffs, rather than inspired modifications. Of these, some of the most fascinating are its recreations of actual places. Notable recent examples include a full replica of the popular Austrian lakeside vilage Hallstatt and the Tower Bridge of London, and Beijing has an entire theme park, the World Park, filled with recreations of landmarks from all over the globe. China even copies itself; the wealthy village of Huaxi has knockoffs of the Tiananmen rostrum and The Great Wall.

Some might find it tacky, and that's hard to argue. However, it's likely harder to  innovate than copy, and thus it's a very rational economic and business model, especially when applies to areas that might improve the livelihood of the largest population on earth. The fast follow model works when an entity like the government can protect the efforts of the copycats, outsourcing the innovation costs to other countries.

This matters less when you're talking about global landmarks and more when discussing business models, especially Internet companies, of which China has cloned many:

It works well until the point at which the costs of negative sentiment towards China outweigh the benefits of hoarding the benefits of copying. Since the political and economic costs of the international community's retaliation are likely more difficult to quantify than the financial success of Chinese companies like the ones listed above, it will be a long time before the practice slows.