The Sphinx: Didn’t the Egyptians think to Trademark it in China?

China's fake Great Sphinx of Giza, in Hebei province, close to Beijing

China’s fake Great Sphinx of Giza, in Hebei province, close to Beijing


China has been investing large sums into Africa to take advantage of the continent’s vast natural resources and build diplomacy. In 2012 alone, China dropped $27.7 billion between Cairo and Capetown and is showing no signs of slowing down. But even with China bringing all sorts of new infrastructure, mobile networks, sports stadiums and more productive farming to the continent, one country that isn’t looking too fondly on the Middle Kingdom is Egypt.


Egypt’s tourism industry, which accounts for 40% of the country’s non-commodity exports and is one its main employers, stands to benefit significantly from the rise of Chinese outbound tourism.  With 200 million Chinese expected to travel abroad in 2017, once Egypt settles a little, big-spending Chinese tourists will come flooding in.  So it is in Egypt’s best interests to keep China on side, but a couple of recent incidents by Chinese nationals will certainly be testing their patience.


Firstly, there was the shameless defacing of a 3,500 year old statue in Luxor by a 15-year old from Nanjing. To the Chinese people’s credit, the despicable behaviour was slated in the state media and on local social networks, where it received more than 100,000 comments and reposts in a few days.   Unfortunately the vandalized sculpture was only minor compared to the latest episode.


A fake Sphinx, more than 50% taller than the 19.3 metre-high Great Sphinx of Giza was constructed earlier this year at a cultural park in the province of Hebei, 300 kilometres southwest of Beijing. Unlike the 4,500 year-old original, which sits in front of the Ancient Pyramids of Giza overlooking the River Nile, the $1.3 million phony sits in one of the most polluted regions in the world next to Mongolian tents.


Just like the graffitied statue in Luxor, the bogus Sphinx has been slammed on Chinese social media.  There has also been an outcry from Cairo.  The developer is now claiming that it’s a movie set and has vowed to demolish it once filming is completed.


China is well known for fakes, for all ages, from kids being fooled by a local zoo with a fake lion, to a phony Eiffel Tower, bogus Austrian village and replica White House.  Even New Zealand’s majestic landscapes have been ripped off.


If nothing else, the fake Sphinx should be a reminder that things often get copied in China, even on a grand scale, and although there is no sure-way to prevent it, its a no-brainer sorting out things like Trademarks for the mainland.  They’re inexpensive and easy to do.  China has a first-in policy for Trademarking, so it is worth getting onto it soon, even if you’re not in China yet.


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My wife Ellen and I are currently living in China, bumbling our way around this fascinating and fast-changing country. We kicked off our stay with a semester of Intensive Mandarin studies at Beijing Language and Culture University and are now living in Shanghai. These posts cover some of my experiences, views and curious facts in and around the Middle Kingdom. Please let me know what you think!

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