Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Without Made in China

November 4, 2007

I was talking to a friend of mine about my jeans search experience, and she told me about a book, A Year Without Made in China, so I immediately had to order it from the library. I read it Friday night. The book is by a journalist and her family who take a New Year’s resolution not to buy anything made in China for one year, and it is the story of their experience. It was written before the whole slew of toy recalls and the Swedish environmental group’s analysis of chemicals in textiles from China and other developing nations. I wonder if she would have had an easier time coming up with an argument for her little children about why they couldn’t buy toys from China.

Like the author, I have nothing against China in general (other than its policies about things like the Dalai Lama), and like the author I have sort of a family history tied to China (my grandmother was born there, the daughter of a missionary). My main problem with China per se is the fact that there is extreme pollution there (which makes its way into products made there) and the fact that there are seemingly no quality control of factories. (There is also the fact that there are child labour factories there, even if some corporations claim to not use them).

My biggest complaint against using Third World country labour is of course the fact that there are so many manufacturing and even clerical and skilled jobs being sent overseas, so that corporations can save money and pay their CEOs ridiculous sums of money. When we decided that we were going to avoid buying products made in Third World countries (around the time I was jeans shopping), I sent The Gap a letter. I told them that I was no longer going to shop there, due to the fact that nothing was made in the US/Canada/the EU. I said that what they should try doing is to come out with a line of clothing solely made in the US, and that I thought people would be willing to spend more money on those clothes. I got back a very thoughtful letter talking about how The Gap was socially responsible and that their Third World country factories never used child labour, paid fair wages, etc. Then this news story came out. Hmm.

So what do we do? We don’t boycott China, or India, or Taiwan. Otherwise we couldn’t buy compact fluorescent light bulbs, apparently. What we are doing is to read the labels in a shop, and try to find a similar product for a similar (or not way too much higher price) that is preferably made in the US, or made in the EU or Canada. (I do use “Made in China” as the very last choice). We spent maybe $8 on a made-in-the US paintbrush, when we could have gotten one from China for $1. But Ingi bought the $15 made-in-China tool belt for working on the windows instead of the $180 made-in-the-US one. I do flat out refuse to purchase gifts for our nieces and nephews that are made in China, due to the safety issues (Lead paint? Heavy metals? No, thanks!) The same goes for textiles.

I think this is the only way to give the corporations the message.

Oh, and one last thing. The author mentioned how one of the issues with their starting the China boycott was the fact that their made-in-China coffee maker was broken, and they were having to boil water to make coffee. They dealt with it anyway. Often, by buying a product that is not made in China, you actually end up with a better, better-made product, and it’s worth the extra money. Our in-laws gave us money to buy a Technivorm coffee maker last year as a gift. It was the only coffee maker we could find in the States that actually boils the water for you (can’t trust those Americans with boiling hot coffee, now can you?) and it was made in Norway.