Senior China Official Pledges to Step Up IPR Protection Efforts

A senior Chinese government official on Friday pledged to strengthen anti-counterfeiting laws and step up the country’s intellectual property protection efforts.

Minister of State Administration for Industry and Commerce Zhang Mao acknowledged calls by leading business people to fight harder against product counterfeiters. Zhang spoke at a press conference on the sidelines of the annual plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma started the anti-counterfeiting drumbeat earlier in the week, appealing to lawmakers in a Sina Weibo post to go after counterfeiters with the same fervor as China did in its quest to stamp out drunk driving. He asked for new, tougher laws, better enforcement and higher criminal penalties. The lack of deterrents was stunting China’s innovation, hurting its reputation and threatening the country’s future, he said.

Ma’s appeal sparked public discussion among the country’s legislators and similar, supporting comments from a “who’s who” of China’s business elite.

Both the China Entrepreneurs Club and its former chairman, Lenovo Group Ltd. founder Liu Chuanzhi issued their own statements, asking the government to “increase the legal cost of counterfeiting” and build out the legal structure against it. Ma is current chairman of the China Entrepreneurs Club, founded in 2006 to nurture entrepreneurialism and business integrity.

Xiaomi founder Lei Jun, in a note Wednesday, called fake goods, “a social cancer, a serious damage to the image of the country and consumer confidence,” and said it was time to support efforts to get rid of them.

Ma’s comments also resonated with Lenovo President and CEO Yang Yuanqing, who sits on the National Committee of the CPPCC and has a record of advocacy for changes in China’s laws. In 2014, he championed a push for a legal framework to protect privacy and personal data on the web and personal devices.

Speaking at a CPPCC economic sector joint group meeting, Yuan told listeners the need was “not only to establish a complete legal system against infringement, but also to make copycats have to pay a price they can’t afford and even bear criminal responsibility” for their actions.

Liu Yonghao, chairman of New Hope, the giant Chinese agribusiness concern, said “fake and shoddy goods affect our industries, the orderly development of enterprises and also affect China’s international image.” He said counterfeiting is a cancer to innovation and must be “resolutely resisted.”