Fake Gold­man Sachs be­lies a real China strength

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - John Fo­ley

The Gold­man Sachs leas­ing com­pany in Shen­zhen is as gen­uine as the Ap­ple store in Kun­ming and the $5 bot­tle of Chateau Lafite-Roth­schild in Bei­jing. Wall Street's best-known in­vest­ment bank has joined an il­lus­tri­ous list of Chi­nese fakes that be­lie a very real Chi­nese strength. Think like an emerg­ing-mar­ket en­tre­pre­neur and steal­ing an idea seems like a vic­tim­less crime. Nei­ther the devel­oper in Chongqing who ripped off an iconic sky­scraper by ar­chi­tect Zaha Ha­did nor the mak­ers of the faux Bri­tish vil­lage out­side Shang­hai are fool­ing any­one. Piracy can dam­age brands, for sure. Like the $30 Jimmy Choo stilet­tos for sale on e-com­merce site Taobao, how­ever, most coun­ter­feits aren't tar­get­ing con­sumers of the orig­i­nal item.

The case of the Shen­zhen-based leas­ing com­pany called Gold­man Sachs is a bit more com­plex. The bank's Chi­nese name trans­lates roughly as "high and flour­ish­ing." Per­haps the Chi­nese copy­cat sim­ply searched online for its fairly generic name and found a handy, pre-made Angli­cism, com­plete with logo. It hap­pens, es­pe­cially in a coun­try where many cit­i­zens don't read Ro­man char­ac­ters. China's big prob­lem en­forc­ing anti-piracy laws re­mains trou­bling. Nearly two-thirds of the goods seized by U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity last year were made in the Peo­ple's Re­pub­lic. There is much to ad­mire, how­ever, about the re­lated abil­ity to work around sys­temic weak­nesses to get things done. In Sil­i­con Val­ley, it is of­ten a virtue. Sim­i­larly, a keen eye for loop­holes has nur­tured pri­vate com­pa­nies in a state-con­trolled econ­omy, and fun­nelled life­sav­ing cap­i­tal to com­pa­nies ig­nored by big banks. That pluck and in­ge­nu­ity de­serves more credit. If China's readi­ness to bend the rules could only be chan­nelled into more pro­duc­tive - and orig­i­nal - en­deav­ours, it might be very pow­er­ful in­deed. Then one day China might re­ally have its own Gold­man Sachs.

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