Tips to making it in China’s counterfeit culture

China is a place where counterfeiting is not just popular, it’s a vibrant culture. From eggs made from calcium chloride and gelatin to cafés named “Sunbucks” (or worse), there are knockoff versions of almost every product imaginable. But “fake” doesn’t just refer to copycats.

People can use “fake” (假 jiǎ) to refer to almost anything in everyday life. As one of the most popular slang terms in China, its origin is hard to figure out, but it’s an all-purpose expression to convey any strong emotion—excitement, disappointment, disagreement, and, most frequently, surprise.

On March 8, perhaps the greatest comeback in footballing history occurred at the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Paris Saint-Germain was supposed to have ended Barcelona’s ruling dynasty with a 4-0 win at the Parc des Princes in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 matchup, but Barcelona miraculously scored six in their second game, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 6-5 aggregate victory. Chinese football fans came up with their own response to this historic match (the first time a Champions League team has come back from a four-goal deficit) by joking that it was so unexpected, it must have been fake: 我一定是看了一场假的欧冠! (Wǒ yīdìng shì kànle yī chǎng jiǎ de ōuguān! I must have watched a fake Champion League game!)

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Faking It is a story from our issue, “Wheel Life China.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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