Hardcover/235 pages/June 2007
Watch the author on You Tube
When my daughters were younger they played a game around the house. The rules were simple, the first player to name 10 things in the room NOT made in China was the winner. Let me tell you, it was one of the hardest games to win. It was then it dawned on me how China had crept into our home without us even realizing it.
When we read articles about sweatshops and forced labor in China, not to mention the recent news articles about tainted food from there, my husband and I will go tsk, tsk at the news, resolving to buy less from China, but, truth be told, when it comes to prices Chinese products win hands down every time. So when I saw that business writer Sarah Bongiorni had written a book (A Year Without "Made in China") on her family's boycott of Chinese goods for a whole year, I knew I had to read it!
On Jan1, 2005 Sarah Bongiorni decided that she and her family would go without buying any Chinese-manufactured products for one whole year. What they already owned would stay and gifts or loans were fair game. As anticipated, it was very tough trying to locate non-Chinese goods and when they did, they were asked to pay exorbitant prices. There's a wonderful chapter in the book which chronicles her search for a pair of sneakers for her 4-year old son Wes. Despite her best efforts she couldn't find a pair of non-Chinese white sneakers, finally she had to buy an Italian-made pair of sneakers online for $68...a steep hike from the usual $15 that she would have spent at Payless.
Here are a few things she and her husband learned about China:
1. Toys, electronics, lamps, footwear, holiday decorations and increasingly, furniture and clothing are consumer areas that are almost completely Chinese dominated.
2. Even when something is tagged as "made in America" it is quite likely that it is made up of Chinese components or comes in Chinese packaging.
3. A lot of people think that China makes only shoddy and cheap things, but, no, there are a lot of increasingly high-end products coming from there, including Barbie-shaped chocolates and even wedding dresses!
4.Broken appliances are liable to gather dust because the spare parts are all Chinese made.
5.Even celebrating the Fourth of July - with its fireworks, flags etc. - was next to impossible without Chinese made goods.
Finally she learns that a normal life without Chinese products isn't possible. That we are so deeply tied to China that I can't envision how we could step back now
The book is entertaining and reads at a fast pace. The author livens it up with hilarious anecdotes,conversations and mini lessons in global economy and creativity. She's funny, outspoken and when she becomes frustrated with the complexity of her task, which happens a lot, you get frustrated along with her. You come away realizing that going without Chinese goods is a herculean task...are you up to the challenge?
Personally, I would love to buy more non-Chinese products, but not at the expense of my sanity. There is a chapter in the book which describes how the Bongiorni house became infested with mice. Rather than buy easy Chinese-made mice traps, they set about placing narrow-mouthed plastic bottles containing bits of cookies and candy, all over the house hoping that the mice would come for the treats and stay trapped in the bottle. Me? I would have bought the traps regardless of where they were made.
So, I guess the question is, are you worried about China taking over your homes and if you are, are you prepared to do something to stop it if you think it can be stopped? Are the recent "tainted food" articles just what American businesses need to realize that they can capitalize on Chinese weaknesses? Let me know what you think.