China has questioned Europol's recent allegation that Chinese mainland and Hong Kong are the world centers for fake goods, saying it might be an excuse for protectionism.
In 2015, Chinese mainland and Hong Kong "were the provenance of 86% of global counterfeiting and 6.5 billion worth of counterfeit goods," Europe's police agency said in a detailed 74-page report, adding intellectual property theft was "one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises".
Insiders say there is no method of calculating figures on fake products worldwide, so the data collected by a regional agency is questionable.
"It may be convincing that they have figures for fake Chinese products in Europe, but it is suspicious that they calculated fake products in China and even China's share of global fake products," said Zhao Ping with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative's (USTR) said eleven countries, including China, India and Russia, were on the Priority Watch List in its "Special 301 Report" on IPR protection, released in May.
Last year the office blacklisted four websites and six physical markets in China as "notorious marketplaces" known for the sale of counterfeit goods and violations of IPR.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that they are smearing China's image on the basis for trade protectionism," said Zhao.
While it is subject to some debate whether China was the origin of over 80 percent of global counterfeits, intellectual property piracy is indeed a global problem involving production, logistics, sales and consumption.
China is also a victim of counterfeiting. Customs data showed that infringement cases in imports have been increasing at an annual rate of 10 percent. Last year customs seized more than 7.5 million pieces of cargo suspected of IPR infringement, up 13 percent year on year.In one typical case, lubricating oil labeled under famous brand names, such as Shell, was bottled in Malaysia and sold in China.
The commerce ministry has said China is aware of the importance of IPR protection and has made obvious progress in the area.
The country has taken steps to protect IPR as part of its larger effort to create a more innovative economy. Chinese police solved 17,000 cases of IPR infringement worth 4.6 billion yuan (about 670 million U.S. dollars) in 2016.
Customs authorities seized more than 17,000 shipments of goods suspected of IPR infringement last year. The courts heard 136,500 IPR cases in 2016, a 24.8 percent increase.
Industry and commerce regulators also increased online supervision and inspection in rural markets that are prone to counterfeits. They solved nearly 50,000 IPR cases worth about 560 million yuan, and transferred 293 cases worth 160 million yuan to courts in 2016.
E-commerce companies have also joined the campaign. Alibaba assisted police in more than 1,400 cases last year. The company is cooperating with more than 18,000 international brands on an anti-counterfeit initiative.
Approximately 30,000 cross-border sellers were purged by Alibaba from its platforms with the help of big data from February 2016 - 2017.
More effective communication and cooperation between trade partners are needed to improve the legal environment for bilateral economic and trade ties.