The IHT Rendezvous blog has a post about a fake Austrian town somewhere in the outskirts of Guangdong province:
Perhaps the language is a reason why: you cannot learn Chinese unless you spend years memorizing thousands of characters needed to achieve literacy, unless you copy, single-mindedly, unquestioningly. Some linguists and cultural historians believe so much mental energy and brain space is taken up by rote learning of the language, that little is left over for innovative thinking.
I think this theory has some currency. Creativity needs to be nurtured and cultivated and practiced. It’s a muscle that can’t be neglected. And in a country of 1.4 billion, it’s exponentially harder than elsewhere for truly innovative ideas to bubble up to the top and gain and audience of influencers.
However, I think that’s only part of the story. The more appropriate question should be, “Why do the Chinese copy Europeans so much?” If the Chinese were a people of rote imitators and copiers, why don’t we see fake cities based off of Mumbai, Sao Paolo, or Lagos? As far as I know, Western European cultures have long been considered refined, luxurious, high-class. They represent an ideal for the status-seeking Chinese, who are clearly the target of these ballsy property developers. They copy because they want to be lathered in “European-ness.”
Ultimately, the copiers of this fake Austrian town aren’t copying because they lack creativity. They’re doing it because they ARE creative. Who else would think to send a group of incognito architects to scope out a mountainous Austrian town for the sole purpose of re-creating it thousands of miles away in a foreign land? That’s pretty innovative to me, and shows that some of these brains still do have some room to think outside of the box.