No, it’s not illegal copying that keeps IE6 going in China. Surely illegal copiers would choose something better to copy.
According to Net Applications IE6 has a higher proportion of usage than any other country save S. Korea which is also many times higher in usage than most other countries. The two countries are conspicuous. What makes them different?
Back in 2007, IE6 had a large share everywhere. M$ and its friends decided to lean on the government of China to combat illegal copying of M$’s software. They sparked a prosecution that put away an organized criminal outfit for years. The result is that there exist, out there, many millions of CDs of XP with IE6 and no one is updating the version… Talk about unintended consequences. M$ was trying to get everyone to go legal and buy the latest koolaid. Instead they have frozen XP and IE6 in time, creating a generation of users of PCs that are unfamiliar with M$’s current products.
So the cause of IE6’s prevalence in China is not illegal copying of software, but the prosecution of illegal copiers.
The reason this effect is so large is that while China has many users of PCs, the country as a whole still has a very high ratio of users to PCs. The current wave of prosperity is enabling huge uptake of PCs but folks are not buying new PCs with IE6 on them. They are buying Android and GNU/Linux on small cheap computers instead. Otherwise, IE6’s share would plunge like a stone.