Hey @pomeranian99, you asked who I'd talk to in the Maker/hardware hacker movement in China, and since I've been thinking about this a lot, I decided to dump a reply on Ello. The following is more opinionated than informed -- if you have unreasonable expectations of advice that's opinionated and informed, talk to @tigoe.
That sort of work is exploding at the moment, as you know. In Shanghai, talk especially to David Li of Xinchejian hacker space. In Shenzen, talk especially to Zach Hoeken (the Twitters say he's in Austin now, not sure if that's a move or a visit, check his schedule.) In the US, before you leave, talk to Sylvia Lindter (who's not in Michigan, but was in China for years) and Emily Parker, late of New America, who's working on green hacking.
All of those conversations will be great and interesting, and you will have a wonderful time talking to these people and I'm happy to help, but what I really want to do is to urge you to look around without North American lenses at what 'hardware hackers' and 'maker culture' look like, because it's different here.
One thing you should do is visit a Cybermart -- there is a chain of electronics stores with that brand, but it also refers to the general category of electronics malls. These are big, multi-story stores, with large-footprint floors, but divided up into booths of different sizes, like a trade show, each rented out to a different merchant. To an American eye, the whole thing is a little nuts, but it works, and and it's worth seeing how it works. (I'd love to take you to one if you have time while you're in Shanghai, though a Shenzen Cybermart may be better.)
The economics of the floor space mean that the showy, high-margin stuff is at street level, and the gritty low-margin is at the top. Start on the first floor; it will be bright, clean, white, with a few big booths. On sale: Samsung, Apple, Sony, maybe Alienware. Like a Best Buy, but less blue; you could be in a mall in Ohio, except for the Chinese signs and more smartphones on display. Skip this whole floor and head up the first escalator you can find.
Second floor. More merchants in smaller booths. More off-brands. Acer and Asus for laptops, Oppo and Huawei for phones. Flip phones and Nokia. Radio Shack with Chinese characteristics. There may be some nominally-banned-but-who-are-we-kidding consoles -- PS4, Xbox, Wii. Some accouterments -- mice and joysticks, chargers, cases. (And right now, for some reason, laser pointers. Laser pointers are the new black. No idea why.) Off to the side, maybe places selling routers and cables. Probably a soup place too, for the workers, and maybe a Family Mart or a 7-11. Look around a bit, then head to the escalator again.
Third floor. Parts. Want a PC? All the fixins are here -- chassis, power supply, motherboard, RAM in any pin configuration you'd care to name, disks by the crateful. Nothing up here is branded Dell or Sony; many things are branded Nanya or Western Digital. Like Fryes, but with all the stuff for end-users cleared out. There's little advertising or style -- the customers up here know what they want and are shopping on price. And that smell? Ah, that is the sweet smell of rosin-core solder. Smells like...victory. Well, victory and volatile organic compounds. You've left the "We sell computers" part of the store and entered the "We sell the technology you can make a computer with" part. People still make their own computers here. Keep that in mind when thinking about hardware hacking in China. Keep heading up.
Fourth floor. All solder, all the time. Full-on disassembly, modification, and repair of pretty much anything that has a screen. Back office services like "You want that laptop to run Windows 7 in Thai, instead of Windows 8 in Chinese? Come back in half an hour." There is no American commercial version I know of; it looks like the inside of a Jawa sandcrawler. There are broken screens everywhere, enough shattered glass to redo the facade of every Urban Outfitters in America. You know that message on the underbelly of your electronics? "No user-serviceable parts inside?" They scoff at that message on the fourth floor.
That's an impressionistic view, a composite of several such places I've been to over the years. So OK, here comes a big tangent, followed by an ill-advised analogy, because Ello. (Oh look, is that a ?) Remember when Make® magazine got a sister publication, Craft®, dedicated to make-ing around food, fashion, and home decoration? No? Well it lasted only a few issues before being turned into a tab on the Make site.
Now there are lots of reasons Make would do well in print but Craft not, including some ways that are tied to tech-industry macho in general, but one reason Craft didn't catch on is that women were never completely alienated from making in the first place. Food and clothes, knitting and sewing, jewelry, decor, white goods, all of it exhibits the same relationship to raw material and inventive labor that is central to the Maker movement, but (stop me if you've heard this before) it doesn't get the attention because it's too 'soft'.
Maker culture is largely male culture in part because men are celebrating our triumphant return to a set of practices women never let go of in the first place. One of the reasons Craft never found an audience is that that audience had never been lost; Ravelry and Pinterest and Etsy do a good chunk of what Craft was meant to do, and without any of the "We here in the Maker movement could not be more pleased with ourselves" vibe.
So, tangent managed, here's the analogy. Hardware hacking in the US vs. China is a bit like Maker culture between men and women. Hardware hacking hasn't become a hot new thing in China because it never stopped being a regular old thing.
There certainly a new interest in the aesthetic and cultural frame, but it's on a base of such deep competence that there is really no American equivalent, and hasn't been since the end of the Homebrew club. Hacking here is on an unbroken spectrum from "cultural statement vis-a-vis consumer electronics" to "Making consumer electronics do whatever the customer wants, because that is my job" to "If I want a cheap gaming PC, I'll make it myself." Hardware hacking is partly a cultural attitude, in other words, but mostly it is a skill, one that never went away.
@Golan Levin made a big lightbulb go on for me when I asked him what he'd learned having their kickstarted Camera Lucida made in China. He said "The hardest thing to understand when talking to the manufacturers is that there is no shelf. They'd ask 'What sort of screw do you want here?' and we'd say 'Well lets see, what do you have off the shelf?' and they'd ask again 'Well, what do you want to use?'"
Levin said it took them a couple of go-rounds before they realized that there wasn't any shelf to get things off of, that any given screw was going to be as cheap as any other because none of those screws existed in advance of demand. They had gone so far up the supply chain there were no more supplies; the producers didn't own screws, they owned machines for making screws, so you might as well design everything from scratch.
That's China -- headwaters of the making of things in the perfectly ordinary way that things are made, using methods and techniques that the Maker movement often defines themselves as opposing, but here, all the different kinds of making are all mixed together.
There is plenty of work going on in Shenzen and Chengdu and Shanghai and Beijing that will reflect, to an American sensibility (Canadian, whatevs) a Chinese version of the American scene. And there is a (very explicit and increasingly well travelled) link between Santa Clara Co. and Guangdong, so there is a lot of cultural cross-fertilization and competition. (Small example: DF Robot's Arduino starter kit is the best version of an Arduino starter kit ever made, raising the stakes for everybody else.)
But there is also a huge, huge industry here, the largest in the world in fact, that is invisible to the TechShop-focussed version of 'making', and I think it would be interesting to head up to the top floor of a Cybermart with a translator and find some of the people whose ordinary, daily, unglamorous job title is 'hardware hacker', and talk to them about what they do all day and how they think about it.