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Bunnie Huang on China's "Shanzai" Mash-Up Design Shops

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the gibsonstephensonesque dept.

Hardware Hacking 181

saccade.com writes "Bunnie (of XBox hacking and Chumby fame) has written an insightful post about how a new phenomena emerging out of China called 'Shanzai' has impacted the electronics business there. A new class of innovators, they're going beyond merely copying western designs to producing electronic "mash-ups" to create new products. Bootstrapped on small amounts of capital, they range from shops of just a few people to a few hundred. They rapidly create new products, and use an "open source" style design community where design ideas and component lists are shared."

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181 comments

USA is losing because we think we're winning (4, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009007)

This is why the US is falling behind faster than we think. We are more governmentally encumbered and less capitalist than China in many ways!

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (5, Insightful)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009103)

This is also part of the problem in outsourcing the actual industrial production of all this stuff. It's really hard to remain innovative and relevant when you design by CAD tool only. This whole idea of design here produce there is just not sustainable for very long. Daily hands on experience with a wide variety of actual manufacturing technologies and techniques is part of what made the US innovative before and is what of what will make China innovative in the future.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (5, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009357)

I think another part of the problem is when engineers, mathematicians and so on graduate and work for the financial services industry. So they design the latest fad financial service rather than the latest fad electronic device.

At least electronic devices don't up end entire economies like intellectually bankrupt financial services apparently can.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27010671)

Agreed: Look at the "top" B.S. and Ph.D. students (meaning those with top grades and with top personality, critical thinking, etc.) at MIT, Georgia Tech, Stanford, etc. and the jobs they long for most are in management consulting, i-banking, or private equity.

Sell out and grab a quick [big] buck. Luckily, many of these grads go on to start or run businesses; hopefully they remember their roots.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (5, Insightful)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009425)

This is one of the two reasons why I admire Steve Wozniak as a person. He's a tinkerer at heart. He'll sit down at a table with various parts and put together something that's cool. Engineering is like lego for geniuses.

.

.

(The other reason I admire Woz is for his sweet, pimped-out Segway.)

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009115)

Well that's working out just great for China's masses of drones, am I right?

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (0, Troll)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009121)

No, it's because your overweight, sufficient, righteous, smelly douchebags.
Maybe you shoul act instead of whining and lynch all the lobbyists out of your lives.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009245)

Well, how much are Shanzai operators spending on patent lawyers? Or is law-abiding what what you mean by "governmentally encumbered"?

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (4, Insightful)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009285)

This is why the US is falling behind faster than we think. We are more governmentally encumbered and less capitalist than China in many ways!

Why is it that with China the first reflex is always "us vs them" like the parent post?

The Chinese will innovate with the resources that the Chinese have while the US will innovate with the resources that the Americans have (note no us and they).

I don't understand why people feel that it would be better if the Chinese were deprived of this opportunity. I would be more inclined to say "join the party", the "more the merrier" in the engineer's club.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009435)

Why is it that with China the first reflex is always "us vs them" like the parent post?

Because humanity thrives on conflict in all aspects of their lives. See: religion, politics, sports, romance, games, etc.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27010157)

While I agree with the sentiment of your post, I'm not going to mod it up. The GP was implying that we should actually rise above all the crap, even if it is only within the realms of slashdot discussion.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (3, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009641)

When browsing comments by Chinese, you will very, very often see the phrase "We Chinese" (women zhongguoren). They consider themselves as different from Americans as ants are different from dirt. Superior, actually - culturally, morally, and physically. You have to realize that years of viewing things like "Sex and the City" has done tremendous damage to the view of Americans from China's viewpoint.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (2, Funny)

the white plague (1436257) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009665)

It amuses me that the average hater of "American Cultural Imperialism" knows more about those shows than I do.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27010115)

Every country's people think they are better than every other country's people. Except a handful of self-hating Americans.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010737)

You have to realize that years of viewing things like "Sex and the City" has done tremendous damage to the view of Americans from China's viewpoint.

From my point of view too

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (5, Insightful)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009957)

Because people are stupid and think economics is a zero-sum game. This leads to the chain;

China is getting richer.
If China is getting richer, someone is getting poorer.
We are getting poorer.

Whereas the only thing that holds is the first. If China is getting richer, it means they have more money to buy things from the US/EU and less competitive labour!

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010915)

The Chinese getting richer actually does have a negative impact on the United States.

The rate at which the Chinese economy is growing is faster than the rate at which the global economy is growing.

The difference between the rate of global expansion and the rate of chinese expansion is growth that is lost by everybody else.

So while the economy is not a zero sum game you can still have the growth of one economy have a negative impact on others.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27011087)

While what you say COULD be true, it is false in this one. The only way for it to be true is if money is freely traded AND all trade barriers are dropped AND they are not required to have a cleaned up env. China has their money fixed against the dollar (a basket is still fixed by the gov), AND they have not dropped their trade barriers and china is one of the most polluted countries on this planet. If they would free their money, it would double overnight. Likewise, if they dropped their trade barriers, then EU, USA, and Canada could compete. Until at least the first two things happen, this will continue to be a win-lose situation, that we in the west should NOT play.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (0, Flamebait)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27011227)

Much of our "richness" - our immense buying power - is predicated upon China being fucked. The same is true of Mexico. Mexico is right under our thumb (or if you look at the map, our ass - after all, Hollywood is down there, and they are a major shit-producer) so we can keep them down pretty trivially. China is far away and big. When China comes up they won't need us any more. We've brought Canada on board with our little Axis of evil (been watching your laws up there lately?) and Mexico alone isn't big enough for us both to crap on. If we get to the point where China is buying substantial quantities of goods other than food from the USA, we've already lost (our jerkoff lifestyle, that is.)

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (2, Interesting)

RichiH (749257) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010147)

Because the first world is scared of the low-wage Wirtschaftswunder which Japan, Korea, Taiwan etc showed us. Only there is over a billion people in China. 10-20 years more and the next billion, the Indians, join the party for real. And by _that_ time, the Africans will be where China & India are now.

Where the former first world will be is anybody's guess, really.

I can understand both 'their' and 'our' pov.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010683)

I think that the post you quote wasn't calling for the Chinese to be deprived of the opportunity; but for us to recapture it for ourselves.

Competition of the "if I can't have it I don't want you to have it" school is mean-spirited and rather unproductive; but the "interesting idea you have there, I should look into that" school has been responsible for a great deal of progress, and seems to be what grandparent was driving at.

Whether one likes the fact or not, it is undeniably the case that contemporary America has very high levels of regulation(both official on-the-books stuff, and stuff that you de facto cannot do because you'd likely face a ruinous lawsuit if you did). I didn't see anything from grandparent about sending in WIPO; rather the suggestion that perhaps we should dial back things at home a bit.

Open source capitalism? o_O (-1, Troll)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009325)

Ummm... open sourcing, at least, is anything but capitalistic: it's socialism at work. Some of those governmental encumbrances you mention are also trying to achieve socialistic goals. Apparently that's why you despise or fear them.

It's entertaining to watch the same mind try to embrace both open source and capitalism; the cognitive dissonance that results is like watching a daytime soap or a reality show.

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009447)

No, socialism would be having the government demand that programmers write software for the greater good or be jailed. There is nothing anti-capitalist about open source. It simply turns the profit model from distribution and licensing back to performance and production. If I want software, I can pay somebody to write it. They get the money and I get the software I want, and if it's FOSS, that just means it isn't exclusive. That doesn't make it any less capitalistic or free market.

Personally I don't think any kind of protectionism is really free market, whether we're talking tariffs or patents. In a truly free market, whomever CAN produce the best product, SHOULD. Regardless of 'who thought of it first' or 'they took our jobs!' [southparkstudios.com]

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1)

BrainInAJar (584756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009541)

No, socialism would be having the government demand that programmers write software for the greater good or be jailed.

No, that's a caricature of Evil Red Communism.

if it's FOSS, that just means it isn't exclusive. That doesn't make it any less capitalistic or free market.

It precisely makes it less capitalist. "From each according to ability to each according to need"

The problem is the knee-jerk reaction to the word "socialism". Nobody wants to accept that maybe some aspects of socialism aren't all that bad. Similarly not all of capitalism is all that bad ( or all that good either ). The most healthy systems employ elements from both

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1, Troll)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009847)

yea socialism mostly just means things like: public health care, welfare system, governmental Philanthropy in the arts and cultural affairs etc. many Americans had an irrational fear of it until Obama mentioned "change", it must have have been a keyword to snap them out of the commie hating hypnotism that Reaganomics put them under. what GP was talking about was Statism, which is kind of more like Microsoft or maybe apple than anyone (Microsoft are Nazis and apple are Stalinists).

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010949)

Thank you for so ably demonstrating the ignorance, self-delusion, and dogmatism that I described in my last sentence. Now, for your own sake as well as ours, please go spend half a day doing some scholarly reading about the actual concept and theories of socialism. You might start with a contrast of subjective and objective valuation, recognize the ethical problem that one of the two represents, and then hopefully you might begin to comprehend the intent and nature of true socialism, as opposed to the perverted distortion you're using to prop up a delusion. Unfortunately your comprehension of capitalism is nearly as incomplete, so I'd recommend using the rest of the day reading about the true descriptive nature of that.

Socialism is not descriptive like capitalism, it's prescriptive, and it's all about ethics in the economy. Socialism doesn't prescribe a form of government; Communism tried to use a system of government to force an ethical economy, but ethical economies and unethical governments don't mix very well, as history has demonstrated. Pure capitalism is ethically neutral, at best. Fortunately for you (clearly you received your indoctrination in the United States), you've probably never experienced true capitalism, since the capitalist economy here is heavily modified with socialist principles, and long has been.

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010965)

Ooops: meant that for the PARENT of this comment.

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (2, Insightful)

Rennt (582550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009983)

You couldn't be more wrong. One of the main pillars of capitalism is that there are no barriers preventing new players from entering a market. In this sense OSS is capitalism at its most pure.

Shops like MS and Apple actively lobby the Government to raise the barrier of entry with laws like the DMCA and software patents. This is decidedly uncaptialistic. Its much closer to fascism really.

Believe it or not, profitability is not really a consideration when it comes to classifying an industry as one kind of ism or another. The key indicator for a capitalistic economy is COMPETITION.

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1)

neomunk (913773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010605)

I'm sorry, but the roots of the two words we are comparing disagree.

CAPITALism vs SOCIALism. Looks to me as if the focus of resource distribution is the major difference. Both systems seek to define how resources are allocated and to what goal they should be used towards. Capitalism assumes that the actor who makes the most profit from the resources they are given is using them most efficiently, while socialism assumes that a system-wide view of what ends the resources are being applied to should be sought, and used as a guide to distributing resources in a way that is beneficial for society.

Competition can be (and is) a perfectly valid method of efficiency boosting in socialistic economies, it's not the defining aspect of capitalism. The defining aspect of capitalism is that the economy is supposed to benefit those who have capital (hence the name).

In addition, any added concepts like "freedom" or "fairness" are defined EXTERNALLY by other government policies, and are only tied to a nation's economic system by way of decades of propaganda coming from supporters of BOTH economic strategies. In truth you can find repressive capitalism and freedom-rich socialism.

McCarthy-era definitions and prejudices of government systems need to be seen through the lens of the society that thought them up; a society very very deep into the 'good vs evil' mindset. Adjust your preconceptions accordingly.
 

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1)

Rennt (582550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27011009)

I don't really disagree on any of your points there, but I don't see how that makes something like open-source socialist rather than capitalist - unless it is from the very narrow McCarthy era world view.

Capitalism assumes that the actor who makes the most profit from the resources they are given is using them most efficiently

Only when free of external encumbrances - where software patents are involved actors making the most profit are not operating at efficiencies that benefit the overall market.

In the OSS game code IS the resource. The actors that make the most money out of it (IBM, RedHat, etc) are using this resource the most effectively - and usually WITHOUT protectionist practices designed to prevent competition. How is that not capitalism?

Re:Open source capitalism? o_O (1)

Rennt (582550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27011037)

It just occurs to me that this could be another case of semantics over OSS/Free Software.

I could accept an argument stating that Free Software is a socialist construct. OSS is an entirely different kettle of fish though.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009337)

Yes, the US is falling behind because it doesn't have whole industries whose business model is to churn out nothing but counterfeit, cheap knock-off products like China's counterfeiters...

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009791)

Yes, the US is falling behind because it doesn't have whole industries whose business model is to churn out nothing but counterfeit, cheap knock-off products like China's counterfeiters...

anymore.

This is exactly what the US and Japan and probably most modern industrialised countries did to get themselves started.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (2, Interesting)

jandersen (462034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009567)

We are more governmentally encumbered and less capitalist than China in many ways!

Funny you should say that. To my mind this is the spirit of socialism at its best - the people at the bottom working together rather than each individual competing against each other. Open source is another prime example of what socialism and communism was really about before powerhungry egomaniacs like Stalin and Lenin took out a patent on the idea.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (2, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009775)

communism hasn't worked anywhere. it ignores basic human nature.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (5, Insightful)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010275)

Basic human nature is cooperative.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

MikeB0Lton (962403) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010723)

Basic human nature is to cooperate as long as it is in one's own best interests.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010821)

One's own interests tend to involve further cooperation, if the person cares about long term survival of their person.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (2, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010841)

Probably true for the majority, but there are enough people who who go out of their way to take advantage of others to make a society relying on that basic cooperation not work.

So the fix inevitably becomes iron grip nasty government. Of course the people that are comfortable in such a position of power are not particularly nice people, so it becomes worse over time, as the good people get killed or leave.

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009605)

There are various problems, one being outsourcing which means the knowledge is exported (which in itself is not a bad thing if you can stay competitive), but I think the biggest problem is the patent law (which is seen as capitalistic enough probably), while china also has a patent law they simply do not care about it.
Guess what how the USA became big, they ignored european patents. Same happens now in china which has a bigger embracement of knowledge sharing in society than the west!
Guess what would happen if you would design hardware that way and try to market it. For every button you put on the device three patent trolls would sue you into oblivion! It just was a matter of time the patent law severely would impact the USA negatively, that happens exactly now!

Re:USA is losing because we think we're winning (1)

Ice Tiger (10883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010125)

Notice the lack of patent lawyers being featured in that article.

Quite telling I think.

Shanzhai (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009037)

= gadget geek
 
  big deal

Shanzhai, not Shanzai (5, Informative)

jsse (254124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009041)

Literally 'Shanzhai' means a fortress on a mountain in Chinese, but it's a equivalent to 'garage' in western terms of innovation process. Both means making things at low cost, labour intensive environment, but doesn't necessarily refer to making things in a real garage or a actual mountain fortress.

Often case the term 'Shanzhai' production implies 'cheap and dirty, but work'. Say, we procure electronic parts from a 'Shanzhai' factory, we expect them to be cheap but not with very high quality.

Remind me again, how did Apple start? (5, Interesting)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009239)

Remind me again, how did Apple start?

I think that this sounds more like a new type of consumer-producer than just piracy, and that the "mash-up" is an apt comparison.
These guys may end up revamping a part of the market with their "hardware shareware", and if they do, I say more power to them. Especially since they are doing more than just plain copies, they are producing products that are, arguably, "improved" models.

Quoth the article, "contemporary shanzhai are rebellious, individualistic, underground, and self-empowered innovators" ... which one of those does the marketplace *not* need? (Mark you, I say "need", not "want"; I'm quite sure they want none of it, but will nonetheless have more of it than they like.)

Re:Remind me again, how did Apple start? (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009585)

The likes of an Apple, HP and such to start out making hardware out of a garage like these people do, seem to be diminishing. I don't know if any US garage company can build a custom phone from the circuits on up these days. Designing computers from circuits is probably too expensive of a job now for a garage company. Assuming they do it, the buyer is not going to be consumer, maybe commercial, industrial, government or military uses can justify the expense, but a garage company probably has too low of a profile to tap into those markets without some heavy hitting contacts.

Re:Remind me again, how did Apple start? (3, Insightful)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009697)

Especially since they are doing more than just plain copies, they are producing products that are, arguably, "improved" models.

If they are as good as that, then surely they don't need to rip off Apple's branding to be a success?

The current implementation of Patents is harming innovation by legitimate businesses, that does not mean that companies should not be able to protect any form of new development for a limited period of time. Currently the nations with the loosest attitude to IP are the ones with the least to gain by cracking down on it, do you think that in 10 years time when there are a few Chinese owned firms actually pushing development the of new products forward the Chinese government won't be much keener to ensure IP rules are followed in other countries?

Re:Remind me again, how did Apple start? (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009895)

Especially since they are doing more than just plain copies, they are producing products that are, arguably, "improved" models.

If they are as good as that, then surely they don't need to rip off Apple's branding to be a success?

No, but they might the "free" marketing provided by piggybacking on top of established brand recognition.

And oh yes, I'm quite sure the governments of the Asian countries that are currently hot with piracy will reverse their positions on IP once the companies in those countries mature enough to "go legit". They want a piece of the cake now, but they will not want to share with others later. (Not to troll, but is this not similar to what the US has been doing since they became sovereign?)

Re:Remind me again, how did Apple start? (2, Funny)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009779)

Apple started by ripping off designs from existing manufacturers in the 70s? I think you might have done too much acid if that's how you remember things.

Re:Remind me again, how did Apple start? (1)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010379)

I can't tell if you were aiming for a Funny rating, but I'll elaborate in case you weren't.

They started out as a number of individuals tinkering in a garage, partaking in the creation of a totally new market that changed the whole perspective of 'computing'. I guess these guys are doing the same for 'gadgets'.

And, well, I won't say they did NOT borrow bits from here and there. But then again, those were the days when neat tricks were shared in the computer club instead of (as nowadays) taken to the patents office at the earliest opportunity, and I do think that that was a good thing overall (if not for the original inventors of the ideas).

Re:Remind me again, how did Apple start? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010429)

and I do think that that was a good thing overall (if not for the original inventors of the ideas).

Oh, I dunno. Jobs and Wozniak made out all right, so did Hewlett and Packard, and any number of companies founded along similar lines over the years. That was, of course, before the rise of Intellectual Property law, and the parasites who milk it for all its worth.

Re:Remind me again, how did Apple start? (2, Funny)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010461)

Shanzhai manufacturers are NOT into sharing with others, not at all. Making a spiffy product, following environmental laws, and not ripping off your workers...no reward for that. Someone sees your product, says "gee, that's nifty!" and proceeds to produce a shabby but just-works-enough copy, undercuts you, dumps all of his byproducts into a hole next to a farming village, and witholds his workers' pay for two months before paying half of it and threatening any complainers with beatdowns.

Yup, just like Apple in the 70s. Innovation at its finest.

Re:Shanzhai, not Shanzai (2, Informative)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009275)

Shanzhai in Chinese refers to a camp or basement of mountain bandits in the original meaning.

Re:Shanzhai, not Shanzai (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009355)

Heck, not "basement". I meant to type "base"! Now cue the jokes of "your mom's basement" ...

Re:Shanzhai, not Shanzai (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010441)

Heck, not "basement". I meant to type "base"! Now cue the jokes of "your mom's basement" ...

Yes ... as in, "all your basement belong to us."

Re:Shanzhai, not Shanzai (1)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009671)

The added "h" means you have to pronounce the consenent with a curling-tongue, quite unnatural for western speakers.

Shanzhai usually means a mountain strong hold of bandits. I suppose the potentially illegal part here is with respect to IP laws? Then again, the Chinese never quite respected those in the first place.

I was reading somewhere that there was even an SZ version of the Chinese New Year TV show---the bigger show in China---this year because people are sick and tired of the official TV channel. Imagine a garage-version of the Super Bowl?

Re:Shanzhai, not Shanzai (1)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009681)

Oops, sorry, obvious didn't RTFA. Now I did....

MBA shortsightedness (5, Insightful)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009077)

For temporary profit (that few have participated in) we have outsourced ourselves into irrelevance. As the purchasing power of the increasingly service-based economy diminishes, so do the profits. It is a shortsighted policy - something that MBAs excel at.

Re:MBA shortsightedness (0, Troll)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009213)

Once we achieve a truly global economy, then whom will the Chinese exploit or outsource their own jobs to? (They are already in parts of Africa...)

Soon the only jobs left on the planet will be: 1) prostitute 2) mercenary 3) bankers who own 1 and 2.

In some ways this is already the case. Think about your own job. Consider how it compares in those categories.

Re:MBA shortsightedness (2, Funny)

chromas (1085949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009293)

...whom will the Chinese exploit or outsource their own jobs to?

How about the US?

Re:MBA shortsightedness (5, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009473)

You joke about this but it does happen. I've worked on projects where there are people working all over the place. E.g. Euro/US company designs something and manufactures it in China and the software is done by an Indiam company.

So far, so conventional. But the Chinese are often just assembling parts that come from the US (e.g. processors from Intel, components from Europe, displays from Korea and batteries from Japan) and immediately exporting them. And the Indian company might subcontract work back to Europe or to the US. It's simplistic to say that work has moved from Europe/the US to China/India, it's more accurate to say that China and India have joined in networks that were global before.

And it's also simplistic to say that jobs are always moved from high wage countries to low wage ones. I've seen projects move from the US to Northern Europe for instance, or from Eastern Europe to Western Europe.

The other thing is that labour costs aren't everything. If you have an efficient company making components they are a tiny fraction of your gross sales. Finally there's a pecking order in terms of where the money ends up - and low wage low skill places are not very high in it. A factory in China makes a tiny percentage of the sticker price on a laptop - most of it stays in the country it was bought or was used to buy parts for import. Most of those Indian consultancy companies are going to end up going bust because they bill several clients for one hour of developer time and thus have a low perceived productivity. The few good ones that survive are quickly going to start charging the same rates that US or European companies charge.

Back when Indian and China opened up I thought it would gut engineering in rich countries. That hasn't happened and my few trips to both places tells me it won't happen. Probably consultancy rates would have been 10% higher if they weren't there, if that.

Re:MBA shortsightedness (5, Funny)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009415)

Soon the only jobs left on the planet will be: 1) prostitute 2) mercenary 3) bankers who own 1 and 2.

Well, judging from present lack of demand for my sexual services, I don't think I have to worry about being a prostitute. Being a mercenary or prostitute/mercenary-owning banker both sound pretty badass though, sign me up!

Re:MBA shortsightedness (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010445)

It is a shortsighted policy - something that MBAs excel at.

Worse, I know some who are proud of what they've done.

Could prove interesting (1)

yanguang (1471209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009079)

I could use a low grade Kindle clone. Then again, the cost of importing it here costs abit too.

Slightly off topic, but there was a 'Shanzai' version of the popular Chinese New Year celebration programme awhile ago.

Although it met with much problems finding a broadcaster, and failed to stream it live. They eventually made a DVD of it. One can call it a grassroots movement. Maybe the people of China are stirring. Not yet awake, but stirring.

Smart; Very smart (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009091)

Several thoughts;
  1. Our IP is getting in our way. That is why our forefathers created SHORT TERM IP rights. Now, it is just a money maker for a bit longer, but is KILLING the west.
  2. I have thought that if I had money, I would buy some of the plastic fabs as well as electronic fabs that remain in America. Then I would set up SMALLamount manufactuering and ask for ideas. THe approach would be that if an idea came across, then cut a deal with the person(s) to build it, and sell it, and give them a cut. This is done, but typically only after somebody has done 99% of the leg work. That is so that somebody feels protected, but does little good. Better to get the idea in, work with person, and use real experts.

The west will lose unless we get smart and change. China is in this for the long haul. They keep their yuan pegged to the dollar, keep up their trade barriers, and then gripe when our economy is crashing. In the meantime, they are building 2-4 NEW NUKE subs EACH YEAR. It borrow HEAVILY from western ideas.

Re:Smart; Very smart (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009119)

Our IP is getting in our way. That is why our forefathers created SHORT TERM IP rights. Now, it is just a money maker for a bit longer, but is KILLING the west.

Not to mention the 150 year-after-Disneys-death copyright. That really helps preserve the wealth of the rich, but at the cost of a stagnating society.

SMALL-amount manufacturing exists (4, Informative)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009283)

There are already a number of small-amount manufacturers, as you call them. Some are prototyping shops, some will build any number of items for you.

http://www.emachineshop.com/ [emachineshop.com]
http://www.tapplastics.com/ [tapplastics.com]
http://www.pad2pad.com/ [pad2pad.com]
http://www.olimex.com/ [olimex.com]
http://www.eurocircuits.com/ [eurocircuits.com]
(no affiliation to any of them)

But you have to supply a sellable idea that's not been done yet, and bear the cost of iterating the bugs out of the design.

Also, and more to the point, the burden of IP is on your shoulders; at least, they're just punching out parts on your behalf and AFAIK that's not been contested in court as of yet.

Re:Smart; Very smart (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009341)

IMHO, the fact that patent licenses aren't automatically recursive is absolutely perverse. Under current law, if you buy something made with a patented part, modify it, and sell it, you can be sued for infringement even though the part in question was fully licensed at the time of purchase. That's perverse. The mere fact that most people are shocked (if they even believe you) when you tell them shows that our elected officials have become seriously disconnected from society's consensus about IP law.

If I want to create mashups of movies by George Lucas and Disney, and do so by purchasing a retail copy of every DVD from which footage is ripped, then render them unusable and package them along with my mashup copy, it should be absolutely 100% legal. Ditto, if I make a cool dance remix of a Metallica song. If every copy of my remix CD is backed up by a purchased & destroyed copy of Metallica's CD, Metallica will have lost nothing. They made their money from the sale of the media that was purchased, then rendered unplayable. If someone purchases my mashup instead of the original, the copyright owner would be no worse off, because I would have purchased a copy of THEIR original on behalf of whomever purchased a copy of MY mashup.

Licensing should be recursive, for both patent and copyright law. IP law needs to be reformed so that any licensed item is automatically and recursively licensed in perpetuity, as long as there is no net increase in licensed content. If I use content from five CDs to make one of my own, proof of purchasing a complete set of those five CDs prior to their official destruction should be an automatic defense against allegations of infringement.

Re:Smart; Very smart (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009731)

Fat chance your sane approach will be passed into law.
USA is under a slow, ever-increasing vise squeeze.
Brought on by millions of laws, millions of lawsuits which can bankrupt an entire family, and police high-handedness which result in mix-tape makers being sentenced to 20 yrs in prison.
Innovation thrives where compeition is open and need to survive is unencumbered by protectionists.
Apple invented the iPhone and settled a number of lawsuits and still defending some.
Same with iPod.
Same with PC by HP (sued by IBM)
Same with Windows (sued by apple)
Same with every other new damn thing.
Hell, if Edison invented the electric bulb today, he would be sued by the Torch manufacturers association, ...and if Ford were to produce Model-T, Abbott & Concord would sue him to death.
Victorian England was the last time innovation stayed up.
The subsequent attempt by large industrialists, large companies (Railways) and lawyers led to UK's steady decline to where it is today: begging others for support and proudly holding aloft its Stupid Pound in defiant of Euro. Hell it had to beg its former colony TWO times to stave off defeat in wars.

Re:Smart; Very smart (3, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009503)

Several thoughts;

  1. Our IP is getting in our way. That is why our forefathers created SHORT TERM IP rights. Now, it is just a money maker for a bit longer, but is KILLING the west.

IP rights have their uses. I happen to know that China has cloned processors and that are unlicensed. Inside China anything you buy will use one of those. For the export market Chinese companies have to import legal components from somone who has a license. So if you work for US processor manufacturer for example, IP law is protecting your job. I suspect that if you have an engineering job in a rich country, IP licensing is one of the things that pays your salary.

Re:Smart; Very smart (2, Insightful)

Stray7Xi (698337) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010171)

For the export market Chinese companies have to import legal components from somone who has a license. So if you work for US processor manufacturer for example, IP law is protecting your job. I suspect that if you have an engineering job in a rich country, IP licensing is one of the things that pays your salary.

GP was complaining about long term IP rights. So in effect you're saying that we're protecting the Pentium 2 processor from being copied (released 1997). I think it's had enough time with protection and should be allowed to be copied

what, no patent ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009123)

Hmm, are you sure there's no patent already for doing that ?
I'm sure there is one already and they will get sued pretty soon for this 'business model'

The solution (0)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009141)

The solution is of course to stop outsourcing production to China for the next generation consoles and gadgets and remove serial numbers and labels from the parts; if you don't get the plans, you'll have to copy the hard way.

The first companies that do this will probably die a swift death at the hands of the customers who now have to pay 12 times as much and refuse to do so, but that's what you get when Made In The USA doesn't have the ring it did and Designed In The USA implies "Manufactured in low-wage country".

Still, it doesn't matter - just make sure you pay the QA and QC people enough and hold 'm to strict standards, then it (theoretically) shouldn't matter much where things are made.

Re:The solution (2, Interesting)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009309)

bunnie says:

I did look into the prices of equipment in china and they are about 20-50% that of used equipment bought in the US.

The problem is that shipping an SMT machine in one piece to the US would not be cheap; compound onto that the tariff Iâ(TM)d have to pay, the zoning issues of putting an SMT line in your house, and the 20-30x cost of labor to maintain and run the machines, and itâ(TM)s not looking as attractive.

The other important thing about that setup is the retail store on the bottom floor. Not only can that guy make stuff, he can move it â" I imagine the equivalent would be getting a retail store in downtown San Francisco with this equipment in there. The rent would be astronomical, and the landlord probably wouldnâ(TM)t allow (or be zoned for) mixed living, manufacturing, and selling.

SShan zhai bandit phones and popular youth culture (4, Informative)

BananaPeel (747003) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009157)

For those intereseted there is small write up with a few pics on the cultural aspects of Shan zhai on:
http://chinayouthology.com/blog/?p=369 [chinayouthology.com]

Talking to friends in China last week "Shan zhai" anything is a hot word in china now, being applied to mobile phone, fashion, whatever.

While I was there I offered over half a dozen iphone look alikes which can be bought from around 1000 yuan (~£110)

This means one thing (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009399)

First they copy a cellphone, they add a pocket knife to it so it doesn't violate the patent. That gets patented, so they add microscope to it. That gets patented, so they add a printing press to it. And before long we're all carrying around =!iphones with all the useless features of Sharper Image products in our pockets. I can't wait to see what they do with a swiss army knife.

Re:This means one thing (1)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009441)

I can't wait to see what they do with a swiss army knife.

I know! They'll add a cellphone to it!

Re:This means one thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009519)

Yo dawg, we heard you like cellphones

Capitalistic open source super cool (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009457)

This is amazing, great stuff. And this is emergin in capitalistic (sic!) China, as a natural way of doing business. By natural I mean not bound by copyright/patent laws, free flow of ideas - things we all love in open source *can* be moved to other markets as well and it is great example.

Wondering if we shouldn't run some campaign that'd allow this kind of things happen in EU?

Re:Capitalistic open source super cool (5, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009829)

+2 insightful? WTF? Shanzhai manufacturing is RIPPING OFF OTHER PEOPLE'S IDEAS, it has nothing to do with innovation, open source, etc. You think a Shanzhai manufacturer is going to let me into his factory and inspect his line? Maybe he'll post his CAD drawings and mold milling specifications on the web? Make a forum post where he reveals the specific material he uses, his suppliers, and the prices and contract terms he got from them? You want to see what shanzhai manufacturing makes? Crapity-crap like this janky fake Wii [taobao.com] . I guarantee there's no way it will last more than six months, guarantee it. It's not open source at all, free flow of ideas? If by free flow, you mean one-way flow - to the shanzhai guy and not the other way around. It's "let me rip you off, make a cheap crap copy, add a couple of features from OTHER people's work (features that are probably not well-thought-out, nor integrated well with existing features) and sell it at a discount by disobeying all environmental regulations (China DOES have them), and forcing my workers to work overtime for free otherwise I'll fire them and have them beaten by thugs if they complain. I know more manufacturers than you do, buddy.

Official notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009487)

Bye bye US. Bye bye West.

Buying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27009607)

Is it possible to buy shanzai gadget in Europe?

yes, there are stores that specialize in this (1)

Technomancer (51963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009795)

http://www.dealextreme.com/
http://www.chinavasion.com/
http://www.epathchina.com/

and of course, eBay

Re:yes, there are stores that specialize in this (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009919)

Oh man, just what I need. I love DX, and now you've given me two more of them.
Geeks, there's a lot of love to be had sifting through the USB handwarmers for the gems - DX's LED torches are remarkably similar to Surefire's, for example, and they do free world wide shipping. Taking a punt on a cheap box of gadgets to arrive in the post is one of my favourite hobbies...

Re:yes, there are stores that specialize in this (1)

RichiH (749257) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010199)

Whoah, I knew of the first three, but the last one is awesome!

In all seriousness, DE is great, I order shitloads off them.

Cf. Silicon Valley (5, Insightful)

femto (459605) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009645)

The big thing going for the Shan Zhai is that their component makers are just around the corner. Need a touch screen for you iPhone knock off? Duck across town and talk to "Joe" and buy a few crate fulls off him. No long distance language barriers, freighting, delay, currency exchange or other things that an kill momentum in a project. It's not that different to Silicon Valley, in that it is effectively a technology shopping mall for engineers.

Compare that to Australia, where I live. Manufacturing base is close to zlich. Components have to be procured from overseas and local distributors are just not interested. Most time and effort goes into procurement rather than design. Better be sure of your design too, as deciding to make a design change involves a while new procurement cycle. No ducking down to "the local" to get a replacement. As an engineer, I'm envious.

Re:Cf. Silicon Valley (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009867)

Great point! It's convenient as hell to have the manufacturers just around the corner. You get some defective product? Drive down to his damn factory and throw it on the boss' desk! Try that from Germany. Better is seeing something that you like, and telling your girls to call the factory and get a sample. New mattress? Standup arcade machine? Office furniture? Samples at factory cost (used to be free...sigh).

Re:Cf. Silicon Valley (1)

gsmb (658454) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009945)

Hey Femto! Come down and join in, even for a holiday. China is kickin arse in places like Shanghai for this kind of stuff. watch out America! (and the rest of the world) all these small mash ups WILL generate some super cool stuff in the future and China will profit in more ways than "just money"

Brute-forcing the market = new innovation (2, Interesting)

Technomancer (51963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009663)

The way these companies are trying to find winning combinations in the market is very simple, they iterate through 2,3,4-dimensional space of gadget combinations.
Righ now it seems they are at stage 3, combining 3 things together for instance usb-mouse/heater/skype handset.
It is just their way of "innovation", they have almost infinite resources - money, people, factories so they try different combinations.
Kind of like brute-forcing crypto key instead of finding weakness in algorithm.

Proof that (0)

A12m0v (1315511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009719)

open source is communism.

Chinese Innovation = American Jobs? (1)

Heratiki (943721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27009827)

Look at it this way. Why stifle this type of innovation when it seems to be gathering a solid following. That and beside the fact that as America grew in leaps and bounds and then began outsourcing all of its jobs. Now we can sit back and watch as China does the same. I can't wait to see China begin outsourcing to America. :-)
(Yes I do realize that won't happen but for crying out loud whats wrong with a little jibber-jabber here and there right?)
[get's out his super cool chinese mash-up flame retardant wma/divx capable iphone jacket with noise/water canceling earbuds]

Re:Chinese Innovation = American Jobs? (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#27011061)

[get's out his super cool chinese mash-up flame retardant wma/divx capable iphone jacket with noise/water canceling earbuds]

I see your Flame Retardant Jacket and raise you Asbestos Issues [wikipedia.org] !

Grrr. (4, Insightful)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010081)

This was happening years ago, back in 2005 in my last trip for example.

What is really behind this is a business that is not shackled by the same leg irons that cripple development in the west - for example accountability, itellectual property, patenting, copyright, health and safety, quality management and so on.

The gist of the problem is that you can either have development that is ethical, safe, manageable, legal, and controlled.... or you can development that is rapid, fluid and prone to appropiate and adapt any idea that fits the bill.

It is impossible to have both.

In China you see an emphasis on the latter and in the west you have the former, this is a culture clash of epic proportions. At the end of the day we are all to blame, we all like the idea of promoting western businesses and industry - but we all have a greater desire for cheap DVD players and iPhone clones.

Yes I can appreciate the rapid, innovative engineering this trend shows in China - but behind it is a clash of cultures and ethical and moral decisions that have decimated industy and development in the western world.

Re:Grrr. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010489)

Yes I can appreciate the rapid, innovative engineering this trend shows in China - but behind it is a clash of cultures and ethical and moral decisions that have decimated industy and development in the western world.

It's more of a trade-off (something any engineer worth his salt understands very clearly.) The truth is, we're both heading in the same direction, it's just that we're farther along the curve than China. You think the manufacturing sector in the U.S. was any different than China's before the advent of worker protection and environmental law? Believe me, it was a chamber of horrors similar to what China's workers are suffering in now.

The problem is, neither our current approach nor China's can be maintained for long. China will poison itself (or suffer a rebellion) if it doesn't do something about worker conditions and general environmental issues, and the U.S. is simply heading for an economic collapse as it allows its manufacturing base to be hollowed out. China at least seems aware of the problems (China is investing heavily in nuclear, for example) while we just seem to be running on autopilot, heading for those mountains in the distance.

Re:Grrr. (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010951)

The gist of the problem is that you can either have development that is ethical, safe, manageable, legal, and controlled.... or you can development that is rapid, fluid and prone to appropiate and adapt any idea that fits the bill.

Or you can have development that's rapid and fluid and can appropriate and adapt useful ideas, and is also safe and ethical. "Manageable" and "controlled" sound like they're only useful if you're large enough to have "outsider" shareholders, and "Legal" just requires fixing (removing?) the patent system.

It is impossible to have both.

Drop "controlled" and probably "manageable", and I think you get something like Sillicon Valley is/was.

Phenomenon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27010205)

It's a new phenomenon damnit!

Re:Phenomenon (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27010501)

It's a new phenomenon damnit!

I must say, you have a singular perspective in this issue.

Didn't we... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27010291)

ma8e (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27010747)

and coomittees has brought upon
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