Already famed for fake designer bags and pirated DVDs, imitation in China may have reached new heights with a set of towers that strongly resemble ones designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid.
A developer in Chongqing is putting up buildings that share the distinctive round contours and white stripes of a 39-floor shopping and office complex conceived by the British-Iraqi designer and being built in Beijing.
The magazine China Intellectual Property noted that the "design sketch indeed shows certain similarities", and listed several buildings by the developer that resembled others elsewhere on the mainland.
Satoshi Ohashi, project director at Zaha Hadid Architects for the Beijing complex, told Der Speigel Online: "It is possible that the Chongqing pirates got hold of some digital files or renderings of the project."
It could rank among the more flagrant rip-offs in a country already notorious for imitating foreign products without permission, but the developer of the Chongqing project, Meiquan 22nd Century, denied involvement with any copying.
Such accusations "do not conform with the truth" and "have had a negative impact" on the company, general manager Yao Yumao said at an earlier press conference, according to a transcript published online.
China's ability to copy foreign products is best known for imitation luxury handbags and copies of Hollywood films. But knock-offs range from a US$3 version of Kate Middleton's engagement ring to fake Apple stores and an entire Austrian village.
Last year a developer unveiled a re-creation of the centuries-old alpine hamlet of Hallstatt, a Unesco World Heritage site, in what Xinhua called "a bold example of China's knock-off culture".