For millions of Chinese, Spring Festival is the most magical of times. It’s the one holiday of the year they get to spend at home, catching up with nearest and dearest with the chance to demonstrate their success in the city through generous gifts and red envelopes. For countless others, it’s a time to dread. Single 20 and 30-somethings across the country return home with trepidation as parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents get ready to pry and lament at their lack of a lover.
Over the past few years some of these loveless souls have taken certain measures to avoid this exact scenario. A simple search on Taobao and a cool ¥1,000/day ($140) + expenses, and you can find yourself a boyfriend or girlfriend – well, a fake one. If nothing else, it can keep mum off your back for another year and provide ‘legitimacy’ to your updates about how great life is in the city.
This year things have changed. A search on Taobao for “Rent boyfriend” 租男友 (Zu Nan You) returns the “According to relevant laws and regulations, we can’t display” verbiage.
Fake boyfriends are just a small part of a growing list of products that are getting tougher to buy on Taobao. Alibaba has been making noises about fighting fakes for some time now; in 2014, when the company listed on the NYSE, it made a lot of promises about cleaning up its platforms. But it would appear too little had been done when Alibaba was ousted from the prestigious Anti Counterfeit Coalition in May 2016, prompting Alibaba to overhaul its IACC MarketSafe Program, allowing any brand to access it at no cost.
In what must have been a few late nights in Hangzhou, followed by a glitzy event and flurry of announcements, Alibaba claimed it would [finally] be tapping into its rich data analytics, working with brands such as Louis Vuitton, Samsung, SWAROVSKI, Mars and Huawei to form the Alibaba Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance in a bid to rid the world’s largest shopping mall of phonies.
The effectiveness of Alibaba’s Alliance is still unknown, but no business is better placed to improve China’s IP-protection. Things still have a long way to go, but we’re positive that with Alibaba’s progress, coupled with reinforcement from Beijing – as China’s own patents soar and pivotal trademark rulings for Michael Jordan, Michael Bastian and a host of lesser-knowns not named Michael – things are moving in the right direction.