It’s almost a cliché these days. Everybody knows that the Chinese are brilliant at reinterpreting Western technology and making it better than the original. In the same way that the postwar Japanese produced out of the ashes a world-dominating car industry by taking European and American technology and making it more reliable, cheaper and longer-lasting, the Chinese are currently knee deep in production of a series of clones that might end up informing a genuinely innovative domestic car scene. At the moment, the most outrageous Chinese cloneage include the Mini rip-off by Lifan (above) and the Rolls Royce Phantom-apeing Hongqi HQA (below). These are just the tip of the iceberg. The European industry has enough on its plate at the moment to be too concerned about challenges from China, but it has been rumoured that trade agreements are being discussed between the US and China which will tighten up legislation about intellectual property and automotive products. The Chinese car industry might prove to be a case in point of the classic ‘late starter’ success. Someone coming new to the table can take advantage of all the hard-won-work made by others, and catch up quickly because the mistakes, blind-alleys, dead-ends and other mistakes made classically by startup companies can be avoided. The cars, it has to be admitted look like clunky, slightly uglier versions of the originals, but some of the early versions will undoubtedly become classic collectors pieces too. It won’t be too long until a truly interesting and original car comes out of the most populous nation on earth.
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