China’s billion dollar “pirated” copy of the Austrian village of Hallstatt has finally opened, much to the annoyance of the inhabitants of the original, who still complain the Chinese copied their village in secret and never bothered to ask for permission.
The Austrian original, a centuries-old Alpine village designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO and a major draw for tourists, was secretly scouted and measured by agents of the property development arm of China Minmetals Corp.
The made in China version:
The developers planned the village, situated in Guandong province, in the hopes it would prove popular with both wealthy Chinese home buyers and tourists not interested in actually travelling to Europe, and report they spent some ¥940 million on the project.
Halstatt only found out their village was to be copied from the ground up when a Chinese “tourist” accidentally let slip details of the project.
The initial response was less than positive, but, perhaps sensing there is nothing he can do about it anyway, the mayor now talks up the prospect of Chinese tourism to the original and attended the recent opening of the copy, agreeing to institute cultural ties between the original and its clone:
“It was not so controversial. We were only surprised that a small village in Austria was built, and now we are very proud that it happened.”
Local tourism officials are also hoping the knock-off will encourage Chinese to visit the original:
“First we were a bit insecure. Why did it come to replicate Hallstatt, and then we became lucky and proud.”
Actual residents of the original do not seem convinced:
“I don’t think that it is a good idea. Hallstatt is just unique with its culture and traditions. You cannot copy that. I saw a report and the photos, and the copy seems different. In my opinion it is unacceptable.”
The Chinese reaction to the village’s opening seems equally mixed, although it seems likely the perilous state of China’s property market will be of rather more concern to developers and potential buyers than mere intellectual property concerns.