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books - true stories

A Year Without "Made In China"

One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy

by Sara Bongiorni

The title describes it – a family embarks on a year long boycott of Chinese products. I picked up this book for two reasons 1) to ensure that out of the typical stream of books I enjoy, I also explore what else is out there for me to learn from and 2) there is a lot about China in the other book I have on the go, The World is Flat, so I thought this would be a neat real-life expedition in the realities of globalization.

However, throughout the whole book I struggled with it’s premise. So too, did some of the subjects, and I don’t feel it was ever cleared up:

pg 100 Like his father, Wes sees little virtue in a China boycott.
“Do we not like China?” he asks me one day.
I am alarmed by the question.
“Yes, we like China,” I tell him.
He presses on.
“Are they not nice to people?”
“They are perfectly good people in China,” I assure him. “No different than people anywhere else.”
“Then how come we don’t buy China things?” he asks.
We’ve been over this territory before but I stumble every time. Many days I can’t quite remember myself why we are doing this, so to explain it in a way that makes sense to a four-year old is beyond my abilities. Still, I suppose it’s my duty to try.
“We like China, but it’s a very big place, with lots of factories, and we want to give other countries a chance to sell us things,” I say.

pg 130 Today Sofie does something that no toddler in America, perhaps no toddler in the world, has ever done. She is trailing after me in the toy aisle at the market when she picks up a box, peers at the underside, mutters “China” as if reading, and then returns the box to its place on the shelf. I should have seen this coming – monkey see, monkey do, after all – but I’m blindsided by her performance. My first thought is: What have I done? My next one is: Can it be undone? What sort of mother teaches her toddler to fear Chinese toys? And if she’s fearful of Chinese toys, what’s next? Fear of Chinese people?