[BOOK REVIEW] "A YEAR WITHOUT 'MADE IN CHINA':One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy"
[SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 145 / Sep., 15,2008]

Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center) 

This book is an economic documentary. Nevertheless one can laugh and cry at the same time. No matter its 350 pages length, I was able to read it for three hours in one afternoon.
The author, a mother of 3 children, is an economist journalist writing in a first class American Newspaper. She, incidentally, made a plan to try to live, for a year, without buying goods made in China. The book offers the difficulties she had to confront at home. The humorous writing brings up the various ways a family takes to try to get rid of goods "made in China" and shows how difficult is it to live "China free" in the USA, a country totally surrounded by "made in China" goods, from electric appliances to toys, shoes, sun glasses and carpentry tools.
The author started the "China free" program right after the Christmas feasts of 2004. Taking a look around her house she found out that most goods she was using were made in China: the DVD player, the decorations of the Christmas tree; her stockings and shoes were also made in China as well as the lamp stand; out of all the Christmas presents she had received, 25 were made in China and only 14 were not. Then, she asked herself, "Since when was Christmas a Chinese celebration?" She felt and urgent move to throw all Chinese products out from home.
Nevertheless, she does not hate China. Some of her former ancestors were Chinese and she even feels nostalgia for China. On top of that, she does not sweep out all products made In China and is not within her plans not to buy in all her life goods made in China.
If not, she will have to give up modern culture. Besides, she does not refuse presents, made in China, from other people. Her children are free to buy toys, made in China, with their pocket money. Outsiders might think that such an attitude is unconvincing, but it is quite difficult to continue daily life, even for just one year, following such a "China free" program.
First of all, it is very hard to check the country of origin. Even in the USA, where the display of the country of origin of goods is done more thoroughly than in Europe, people have to check sometimes by phoning the manufacturer.
Secondly, one might be lucky to make sure that the product is not made in China, but usually the price is higher. For instance, children's shoes could cost \1,000 if they were made in China, but if not, would cost between 7 or 8 thousand yen.
Besides that, there are some products that can only be found, as made in China. The most annoyed was to find printer cartridges. Finally, she could overcome the difficulties by using the printers of her husband's company office and the public library.
To find parts was also hard. No matter the identification of the producer country, it was impossible to identify each piece.
But, most of all, a "China free" daily life was full of stress. Practically, all products making daily life enjoyable, like toys, Christmas goods, clothing, etc. are predominantly made in China.
In this way, the author of "China free," using her time and wisdom, obtained the target of "Free China" by compromising and through overcoming the collisions within her family members.
Living in Japan, we cannot become outsiders concerning the issue of "China free," especially in the field of safety using Chinese products. But, what will happen when we get rid of Chinese goods? Following the thinking of the author, we will not die of hunger by rejecting Chinese products, but daily life could be frightfully unbearable. The issue is can we bear its discomfort?
The lesson learned was, the choices done as a consumer decide the course of international economy and, at the same time also our life styles. That is nothing new, people will say. All right, tomorrow let's start "China free" life.

(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
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