“It may be a fake but it is a blockbuster fake.” The Financial Times reports that pirate Harry Potter video CDs and DVDs have hit the streets of Beijing within a week of the film’s launch in the US and Britain. Pirates have even managed to subtitle the film.
If it were my intellectual property being stolen, I’d be very upset. But I think it’s also true that the vigour and enterprise of Chinese pirates is an excellent testimony to the vitality of the market economy in China.
In the ’90s, when I spent a fair amount of time in central and eastern Europe, many locals argued that the widespread corruption and generally lax attitudes towards commercial law (as well as other laws) was merely a wild west phase, not far different from the US in the late nineteenth century, for example.
When you consider the capitalist chaos tolerated in the growth of today’s advanced economies, it is a bit rich that the west insists that developing countries be purer than pure. We had plenty of slack in an era before international institutions created global rules. There is little doubt that a rule-based international system is preferable to chaos and lawlessness, but the different stages of development also need recognising.