China has long been known for its knockoffs and copycat merchandise, but this latest project is some next-level kind of counterfeit crazy. The Austrian village of Hallstat -- a centuries-old village and UNESCO heritage site -- was recently cloned by Minmetals Land, the real estate development arm of China's largest metals trader.
The Chinese Hallstat is a nouveau riche housing estate (in Guangdong province's Huizhou city, about 160km from Hong Kong), while the Austrian Hallstat has a population of just 900 and relies heavily on seasonal tourism.
News 24 reports that Minmetals staff had been deployed to "old" Hallstatt, where they took photos and gathered data, raising suspicions among villagers. "People in Hallstatt first learned a year ago of Minmetals' plan when a Chinese guest at Wenger's hotel who was involved with the project inadvertently spilled the beans."
Many residents of the scenic hillside Austrian village were displeased to learn of the Chinese fake; at the official unveiling ceremony this past Saturday, Mayor Alexander Scheutz signed a cultural exchange agreement with the new Hallstatt, diplomatically expressing the "pride" felt by the flattered first Hallstat.
"They should have asked...if we agree with the idea to rebuild Hallstatt in China," hotel owner Monika Wenger told News 24. "They did not."
Original Hallstat (at left), Chinese Hallstat (at right).