County sings praise of Sydney

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am

The popularity of knock-off Louis Vuitton handbags and mobile phones modelled on Apple's iPhones is just one indication of the insatiable taste for cheap lookalikes among image-conscious mainlanders.

But one county government in Jiangsu has taken that obsession to a new level with its take on an iconic Australian landmark, the Sydney Opera House.

The Swan Harbour inside White Swan Park in Funing county, composed of a smaller brown-coloured rectangular building and a largely white top, is reminiscent of the Australian opera house - a ship in full sail.

The shanzhai, or copycat, opera house, as mainland media are calling it, is not yet open to the public. It is the latest addition to the county government's copycat spree in a bid to boost the image of the county, whose authorities feel increasingly marginalised in development.

Funing county, a less-developed area of a province that's an economic powerhouse on the mainland, made national headlines in May after it was reported to have spent 3.5 million yuan (HK$4 million) for a sculpture modelled on the China pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai.

But the 23-metre-high sculpture at the junction of two highways, which features a similar roof as the expo pavilion with the traditional dougong, or bracket, has no practical use as it has little space inside.

Although it was dismissed as a trophy project, authorities argued the replica would help promote the county. An official from the county government office said yesterday that he did not see anything wrong with the similarity of the Swan Harbour to the Sydney Opera House, as it fitted in well with the overall landscape.

He denied the building cost 50 million yuan, saying that figure was the overall budget for the whole park.

Regional governments are often forced to embark on blind pursuit of economic growth with so-called trophy projects.