Book summary: A Year Without Made in China by Sara Bongiorni

February 12, 2018

Genre: Biography, Economics I Author Sara Bongiorni I Publisher : John Wiley & Sons
First published: 2007 I Pages: 235p I ISBN: ISBN 9780470116135 I Buy at: Amazon.com

I spotted “A Year Without Made in China”, written by Sara Bongiorni while browsing at the library. It immediately caught my attention as the topic is something I always wondered about, so I picked it home and quickly started flying through the pages. Here’s a quick summary:

The concept is pretty simple. After seeing how many gifts and items in her home come from China during one holiday season, Bongiorni decides to kick the Made in China habit and on January 1, 2005, starts a year-long experiment to not purchase any items that are made in China. The main goal of the experiment isn't really to make a political statement, but rather “to see if it can be done.”

Here are a few things Bongiorni and her husband learned out of their experiment:

  • Toys, electronics, lamps, footwear, holiday decorations and increasingly, furniture and clothing are consumer areas that are almost completely Chinese dominated.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Broken appliances are liable to gather dust because the spare parts are all Chinese made.
  • 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. Moreover, Bongiorni is a journalist, so it comes as no surprise that her writing style is enjoyable, humorous, and easy to read.

You also automatically come along the way realizing that going without Chinese goods is a herculean task...are you up to the challenge? While reading this book, I would often pause and take inventory of my home and see how much of what I own does come from China. It sounds like a fun experiment, although I doubt I would be able to last an entire year.

I applaud Bongiorni and her family’s accomplishments with their test, particularly the kids who put up with an entire year of fewer toys and reasonable, but not ideal, alternative to their Wishlist. I think this is a book that most people could benefit from, but not everyone will want to reenact.

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? Let me know what you think.

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