Eiffel Tower in China? Why the East replicates the West


(CBS News) Tensions may be high on the Korean border, but according to recent reports that's not stopping North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un from going ahead with plans for a miniature world amusement park.

The park will include replicas of landmarks such as Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. The North Koreans may have gotten the idea from their neighbors in China, where in a town two hours from Shanghai, about 5,000 people are living in a replica city of Paris.

You can find copies of western architecture everywhere in China: the London Bridge, the U.S. Capitol plus some curious mixes of the Capitol and White House.

But it's not just the buildings; some of these structures are part of whole replica cities.

There's a growing industry devoted to copying cities for the Chinese to live and work. There is an office complex in Tianjin, which is the fourth-largest city in the country, that has been designed to mimic Manhattan. Elsewhere, there's a sweeping recreation of a town in Austria and a detailed replica of an English suburb.

One of the best replicas is a dead-on copy of a boulevard in Paris complete with a scaled-down Eiffel Tower. Around 5,000 people live in faux-Paris. They were sold on the glamour and romance of the real city.

For many Chinese people, living in a copycat city gives them an elevated status, and oddly enough it is because it's different from the endless rows of high-rise apartments that saturate China's cities.

"To me, we are experiencing this kind of adolescent period in China about these buildings," said Ruan Hao, a rising Princeton-trained architect who calls the copycat craze temporary and is "confidant China will grow out of it." In the end, he predicts the phase will end as China becomes more powerful and people have more country pride.

Even presuming this is a phase, East and West still view these cities through much different eyes. Where a westerner might see envy or a lack of original thinking, the Chinese pride themselves on the skill of replication.

For Wyatt Andrews' full report, watch the video in the player above.