China has a robust and well-documented copycat culture. They have a penchant for finding the best things in the world and making their own version of it. If that tendency was once focused on products, it has long since extended to buildings and entire urban areas: Disneyland, replica Swiss villages, the Eiffel Tower, the canals of Venice, to name just a few. These duplicates range in quality and scope, and while some are complete copies of whole areas, others simply take a few icons and make a village out of them.
It seems that this trend, however, is beginning to take a new form, suggesting that the Chinese replica culture is shifting from vacation icons and destination facsimiles into an arena of more complete cultural approximation. As China's economy becomes more developed, with its booming middle class, full-scale lifestyle appropriation is becoming the target. Jackson Hole, China, is a town based on the replica not of a place — but of a concept: The "American dream" of homeownership.
More specifically, it is about second-home ownership. On the outside, Jackson Hole, China, whose Chinese name translates roughly as "Hometown, USA," seems like an innocent mirror of a desirable place: an idyllic mountain town in the American west that embodies the frontier and Usonian individualism. However, potential buyers are taught a lesson about American culture, with promotional materials explaining, “almost all US presidents, telecoms tycoons, financial magnates, media giants, Hollywood stars have their own private Vacation Home [sic]."
Of course, lifestyle and cultural transfer is nothing new, but in Jackson Hole, China, it is all-consuming. To see it played out in architecture and design is particularly fun to watch, as the Chinese in some ways are doing exactly what Americans are doing: simulating authentic experiences of history by accumulating vintage stand-ins that have a patina of age and culture. This history we're miming can be past or present, but often the narratives embedded in most of the new places we make are completely fabricated, based on models from elsewhere. The shipping crates bound for Jackson Hole, China, are full of antiques, animal skins, and other Western kitsch, but they might as well dock in Brooklyn, where they'd be equally sought after. The only difference is that the Chinese are honest about it.