By Benjamin Cost
The annual scourge of bootleg hairy crabs, one of China’s most notorious counterfeit items, will ensure that you have a less than merry Autumn hairy crab season.
Each fall, hairy crab pirates duplicate China’s most coveted crustacean: the Yangcheng Lake hairy crab, an expensive delicacy prized for its sweet, delicate meat.
Unfortunately for the Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Association, shanzai crabs are here to stay, unlike shanzai phones which are on their way out: the counterfeit market for hairy crabs is ten times greater than that for authentic hairy crabs. Just ask local crabber Xing, who says, “Everything is being counterfeited. There’s nothing you can do about it. And you can’t control it.”
And believe us, the Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Association has tried everything from hiking up the price by 10 to 20 percent in 2010 to giving every shipment a 12-digit security code. This year, they distributed 15 million plastic “crab authentication” tags complete with serial numbers and a toll-free number to help customers distinguish their crabs from the fugazis.
Did we mention that sellers have even taken to using lasers to etch serial numbers onto the crabs themselves? The hairy crab black market is not to be toyed with, apparently.
Even still, the authenticity tags aren’t entirely trustworthy, as many tagged crabs don’t even originate in Yangcheng Lake, located 3km northeast of Suzhou. Many crabs spend only half a year before the harvest at Yangcheng Lake, since six months is the minimum period required for a crab to get its Yangcheng Lake bona fides. Increasingly, more and more alien crabs will have to be imported to the lake due to nearby human development interrupting crab breeding patterns (after all, the lake’s just a short train ride from Shanghai).
With all the fakes on the market, people might be less eager to spend the 300 yuan a piece on these two-faced scuttlers.