Putian: The city at the heart of China's fake shoe industry
By Liu Chen

2017-01-16 14:55 GMT+8

Fuan Electronic Mall, a small district in Putian city, southeast China’s Fujian Province, is called a “ghost city,” as it is incredibly quite in the daytime, at least until it comes alive at nine o'clock every evening.
Traffic jams clog the area as night falls, when business owners and clients gather, talking to each other, ready to pick up their goods.
The "fake shoes market" has become an invisible pillar of the local economy in Putian. Despite efforts by the local government to crack down on it, the market never disappears, with its products sold and distributed to every corner of the country.
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In each store, there are famous brand names like Adidas, Nike and New Balance on every shelf. But if you look closer, there's usually something not quite right. The letters may look a little different, or there will be something slightly off with a logo. 
Xigeng District, another market area one kilometer away from Fuan electronic mall, is another black market for fake shoes.
These mall districts are well organized into different zones, divided according to what they are selling, providing goods that are key to the whole supply chain of the fake shoe industry. 
There are people who sell phone cards which can be used by prospective shoe sellers to open WeChat accounts or online shops on Taobao, even though these cards are not bought in the shop owner’s name. 
Photographic studios in the area are also hard at work, with staff showing a particular expertise for taking eye-catching photos of shoes, perfectly designed to upload onto online stores.
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How do newcomers learn the tricks of the trade? This market comes with its very own school, with courses on offer teaching students how to operate an online shop, how to edit pictures and how to cope with negative comments and bad reviews.
Shipping and logistics companies also have a large presence in the area, taking up nearly half of the market space. The sound of boxes being taped up never stops.
One shop owner said that in general, these shoes are sent to small cities in the north. “You should be really careful. If you find the customer knows a lot about the brand, you’d better give him or her the real shoes.” 
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The scourge of fake shoes has never been defeated in Putian. Last year, the local police department punished four shoe factories and seized and destroyed counterfeit shoes with a value of almost 10 million yuan. In 2014, more than ten stores were closed down by the police department.
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Wiping out the fake shoe industry in Putian is going to need smarter action than simple factory closures. In 2015, local authorities decided to change tack and support local brands, advocating the quality of shoes from Putian  being as good as any other foreign brand. The government also offered financial support worth 100 million yuan (14.5 million US dollars) to support local brands