Shanzhai skyscrapers

Kal and I have a new post today up at the Freakonomics blog, this time on an close replica in the Chinese city of Chongqing of a building designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid that’s currently being built in Beijing.

At upper left is a rendering of the Hadid original.

And here’s a picture of the “Hadid” copy.

Both buildings are under construction. At the rate things are going, the Chongqing copy may be done sooner than the Beijing original. The Chinese really have outdone themselves this time.

The question for us is why copying is so ubiquitous in China. In the case of the Hadid building, it can’t be cost. Given that design is an insignificant part of the total cost of a large commercial building, the copyists couldn’t have saved much. So what’s going on?

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