Take a look at this article from Bunnie Hwang, reporting on the copycat industries in China.
Bunnie’s nailed it, there is something interesting and important going on. Writing these guys off as copycats is exactly the wrong read on the situation. These guys are going to be a cornerstone of the foundation that science fiction writers are going to launch themselves from in order to help the rest of us understand what things are going to look like in 30 years.
If the Singularity comes, it will come as a surprise out of this part of the world. Now might be a very good time to go review your Snowcrash.
And for the open-source sociologists out there, it appears this is an interesting laboratory to check out distinctly non-technical things like sharing, cooperation, and enforcement of community norms:
Interestingly, the shanzhai employ a concept called the open BOM: they share their bill of materials and other design materials with each other, and they share any improvements made; these rules are policed by community word-of-mouth, to the extent that if someone is found cheating they are ostracized by the shanzhai ecosystem.