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Would You Go to Tough Lengths to Boycott Chinese Goods?

Considering the intimate economic ties many countries have with China, boycotting the Beijing Olympics to protest human rights violations seems like an incomplete and insincere gesture. Yet, some individuals are attempting to resist China on their own by boycotting products made in China. These conscious consumers are finding it nearly impossible to not buy China.

China dominates the manufacturing market. BBC writes:

Listening to your iPod. Made in China. Fiddling with your key ring. Made in China. Label on the inside of your underpants irritating you a little bit. It more than likely says "Made in China."

Even if you want to buy a TV "made" — aka assembled — in Europe, most of its parts probably come from China. And if you can find the goods, your guilt-free conscious isn't going to be free . . . or cheap.

Is a consumer's hands tied when big businesses and governments decide to do lucrative business with China? Is it a luxury to make a political statement with your purchasing power?


Join The Conversation
onabanana onabanana 9 years
China is really not going to care if we boycott their products. there's 1.3 billion people in China at some point China's going to sell products to them and not care what the West thinks. No country is perfect but some try harder than others to respect individual freedoms and basic rule of law. People have a right to boycott the Olympics for what ever reason they want to good for them in believing in something. And the Chinese government should stop going around and telling people to not make the Olympics political. Every Olympics get political and the Chinese government made it political in the first place by using it as a PR stunt.
flowergirl flowergirl 9 years
I agree with the "No country is perfect" argument. It's easy to put down China & "Made in China" products, but doing so doesn't solve any problems. The only thing boycotting the Olympics and/or Chinese products will accomplish is it will further alienate China from the rest of the world. We need to build a global community, not reinforce divisions across borders. If you're going to boycott a country's products because of human rights violation records, then you should be consistent and boycott the products of ANY country that violates human rights. Including the US. If you can't be true to your principles, what are you really fighting against? Don't be ignorant.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
Kathleen, that's a great approach. I wish I had that talent! Unfortunately, if I tried to make my own clothes, I'd make those poor dears they removed from the compound in Texas look like Nicole Kidman at the Oscars.... :OY:
KathleenxCouture KathleenxCouture 9 years
I think people are misconstruing my opinion. Of course it's impossible to get all of the materials USA certified needed to make your own clothes. I was simply stating that if people are so worried about chinese labor and the clothes being assembled (i.e. sewn) in china then why not just DIY. If you don't know how to se, well, take up a new hobby ;)
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
And regarding the Olympics: I don't think we should boycott the games, that only hurts the athletes. However, I do not believe any of our elected officials should attend the opening or closing ceremonies. That looks too much like an official endorsement.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
Oh, here's another problem with Chinese products. This is still a breaking and developing story, but one of the ingredients in the prescription blood thinner Heparin is sourced in China. There have been a number of deaths related to it. It took some time for them to notice the real source of the problem, as the deaths were mostly among older people. DarkRayne: Chinese imports will only stop when people quit buying them. It may leave store owners holding the bag on unwanted merchandise, but if it changes their purchasing habits, then it's only a temporary pain. They can always mark it down to cost or donate it to charity and take a tax deduction.
lula29 lula29 9 years
I'm not so much on a boycott China movement as a buy local one. It's difficult, more expensive but worth it on so many levels. All the product recalls from last year really scared me straight. Which I know is very self-centered, one would think the labor practices would be enough, more than enough, but it wasn't until all those things hit home that I realized that I can't just object on a moral level, I have to act on this conviction in a real way. I think in end more of us will be forced to buy local due to the same fears.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
I'm all coffeed up and rambley this morning. I'm going to try again to boil it down succinctly... Anyone who is boycotting the Olympics but not Chinese goods is saying they are willing to sacrifice the culminating moment for hard working athletes all over the world for the (questionable) possible benefit of deserving people on the wrong end of China's human rights policies, but unwilling to sacrifice their own wallets and convenience for the (more effective) possible benefit of those same people. And, yah...I call bullshit on that. Hmmm...that may or may not be less rambley. :rotfl:
DarkRayne DarkRayne 9 years
It's up the store owners, the importers and our Government to boycott all goods from China. Most business owners have already paid for the merchandise that's sitting on the shelves. We would only be hurting our own businesses in an already growing recession, and we really don't want to be the cause of more people out of work and losing their homes in the USA.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
On top of that, the whole point of the Olympics is to set aside politics and set aside discord and disagreements between countries. While they have gotten overly commercial, they should still be about individual people coming together for the love of sport and personal achievement.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
Sylvana Joyce, not sure if you're referring to my comment when you say why on earth would you chastise someone for making an effort to cut back on support, even if they don't do it fully?. To me, boycotting the Olympics while regularly buying Chinese goods is BS because boycotting the Olympics is easy. And, not only are you not actually having to do anything to "make a stand", your "stand" doesn't mean a whole lot. The Olympics play on free tv and information is freely found on the Internet. The number of people who watch have no effect on China whatsoever and if anything will only affect the next country who hosts the Olympics with lower advertising revenue the next time around. I suppose making noise about China during the Olympics might possibly raise awareness in the few people on Earth who are unaware of China's human rights record but in reality all you're really accomplishing is stomping on the unpaid, hardworking athletes who are what the Olympics should be about.
bengalspice bengalspice 9 years
I was raised from a very young age not to buy things made in Asia because, frankly, it's over-priced here and really cheap there ... and no one wants to support sweatshops and pollution when the consumer dollar could be spent on aid programs like UNICEF or the Red Cross. I always ended up getting things tailor-made by my family tailor in Bangladesh [because most of the stuff I gravitate to in H&M are Made in Bangladesh or India], or my mom would make me clothes herself. If I had half the skills my mom does, I would probably go the route of making my own clothes ... but I can't operate a sewing machine or a needle and thread for my life. I can only knit and crochet like a madwoman.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
I voted "other" because I do try to avoid Chinese goods, but don't make a crusade of it. I don't know if this is the same book mentioned above, or another one, but what about "A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy" by Sara Bongiorni? It was published June 29, 2007, so it may be more recent information. I recall some interviews with the author last summer, and she said it was *very* difficult and sometimes impossible. There are lots of questions no one seems to be asking about Chinese manufacturing. Yes, there are the safety issues. They don't have the same product safety standards we have, and since their industry is driven primarily by low prices, that's not going to change any time soon. However, what about: (1) Pollution emitted into local towns and waterways by antiquated and/or unregulated factories. (This is a problem in Russia, also.) (2) Labor standards, working conditions and pay rates. Is there really child labor, prisoner labor, etc? (3) How effectively do American firms monitor all these problems in foreign factories? They claim to, but....
LeChatonNoir LeChatonNoir 9 years
It sounds like we're having a competition of who has rid him/herself of China's goods the best. This is not the issue, though. It's not about what you yourself do, and why on earth would you chastise someone for making an effort to cut back on support, even if they don't do it fully? If we want change, we can't just expect everyone to suddenly boycott completely. Why? Most people are unaware, or just don't care. But raising consciousness is, and will always be, a PROCESS. This is the thing few of us take a step back to really be peaceful with. Yes, manufacturing in China is an issue. But there are many other third world countries who are taken advantage of, like Indonesia, and also, there are millions of other situations right in the US where workers are exploited. So what does that say? That this unfairness is part of the global (as well as our country's) consciousness. It's our mentality. We accept it, because we may not be aware of how it plays out in something as simple as our everyday interactions with others. We are raised not to care, and that caring about these issues is an exception, that community service is something rare and should be rewarded, that openmindedness is a jewel amidst a sea of ignorance... This issue is so much deeper than we give it credit for, and it is connected to the apartheid in Africa, white supremacy, global warming, overmedication of our youth, nuclear arms debates, and any situation that keeps one man down and the other man "free": Until we stand up and admit that we are sleeping as a nation and as a global community, and also admit that we DON'T know what we're doing, and we DON'T know how to fix it, and we deal with bigotry, racism, intolerance, hatred and fear within ourselves...that's the only way we can really ensure that there's a possibility for something different... Because then, well, we'd finally be speaking the truth.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
Its an electric pedal. I also have an electric knee pedal machine from the 30's. One is a singer, one is a visetti. I think my scissors were made in the USA. When my grandma passed last winter I got all her old sewing stuff, so I'm set for life! talk about reuse...
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
Skinny Marie, way to go! I was wondering that too. Pedal pumping is HARD. If you don't keep up the rhythm, your stitches get all screwed up. Oh and Skinny, were your scissors from Germany???:)
syako syako 9 years
skinny - "My machine was made in 1943" do you have to pedal/pump it? ;)
jessy777 jessy777 9 years
I always try not to buy things made in China but I agree it is very difficult. Most consumers goods are manufactured and imported from China, heck, my job imports items from China everyday (it kills me but what can I do, besides quit). It goes to show how tied our nations economy is with China's and why the U.S. has never, to the best of my knowledge please correct me if I am wrong, made a public show of dismissing China's behavior. Everyone has to do what they think is best for them to make a statement about this issue.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
I made a reversible skirt this weekend for $27 bucks. My buttons were made in Iowa, my thread was made in germany (gutterman) my needle says made in the USA. My machine was made in 1943, so who knows if it still matters. Fabric was made in the USA. It only took me 4 hours. you CAN do it, you just have to know where to go. And BTW Joann ETC's also have ecofriendly fabric now too.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 9 years
At what point did I say this change was going to happen rapidly or immediately? I didn't. There was no assumption made regarding the power the people of China currently have, only speculation on how I think that the change will occur because of the ground work being laid today in China. And yeah sure "plenty" of Chinese citizens want change but few have been able to create, inspire or sustain it because under the current regime people are beginning to prosper. As they prosper, the people will become bold and place more expectations on their government. It will build within the people, it may take a few more generations of children being born but the power will shift as the people continue to increase their individual wealth. But then again an asteroid could strike Earth next week and it would be a moot point. The British Empire was incredibly powerful at the point in which the colonies rebelled and fought against them. Those colonists certainly weren't fighting against the same regime of British monarchy that had been present when Roanoke was established in 1585. Britain went through 13 different monarchs and the establishment of Parliament before the colonies became bold enough through their own prosperity to rebel and fight to self-govern. During those monarch changes the colonies learned how to prosper and grow and make items better than their British counterparts. Prior to the Chinese Civil War that resulted in the People's Republic of China and the Communist rule - the government of China the "Republic of China" the Kuomintang party had taken over the failed Dynasty system and clashing warlords. China has passed through many phases, more than the US. It probably will always continue to change the way the country their country is ruled. China has such a vast history compared to the US that it's almost ridiculous for us to attempt to them how to properly run their country or treat their people. I spoken with a few of my Chinatown seniors about what they think and how they think China will evolve and they say (mind you these are 70 year olds and 80 year olds) that they remember a time before the PRC and they remember their parents and grandparents talking about the dynasties/warlords fragmentation of the country and they say it will happen if the people want it to happen and when they want it to happen not because some other country tries to force China's hand. One women told me that the Chinese nature is to preserver and stubbornness is an admired trait. No one on the outside will tell the Chinese people that they are wrong and that they have to change.
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
I have a bad feeling that boycotting Chinese products, the Olympics, etc. will very quickly (if it already hasn't) anti-Chinese sentiments (not saying that anyone here is doing or feeling that). I will, however, point out that there's a difference between disagreeing with or boycotting a country's ideals, etc. and hating on the people who either inhabit that country or are originally from that country. To the comment above, plenty of Chinese people *want* their country to change - but they're also the writers, actors, activists who are currently in exile or imprisoned. "China will change when the citizens of that nation want it to change" - this is again, a statement made upon the assumption that people in China have all the same rights and access to enact or even VOICE "change" as we do in America. "At some point this new Western ideal and ethic in China will lead the people to blatantly ignore their current regime to the point where they are leaders in name only but hold no true power." - I'm not sure you are quite aware of just how powerful the "current regime" actually is and how quickly any sort of revolution can be quickly and effectively snuffed out.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 9 years
Jennifer76 - you might find it more difficult to avoid China now, especially considering that China has a huge stake in many American financial companies. China as a country or agents representing China nationals have pumped so much money to the American economy by buying large portions of publicly traded companies that you'd probably have to forgo using a major or minor financial institutions to avoid funding the Chinese government. One would also have to avoid most agro-businesses even organic agro companies because they may actually have gotten their capital from Chinese venture capitalists who are using American representation. China is so heavily invested in our stock market that if they withdrew the US would be on the verge of catastrophic economic ruin that we could not recover from. This appears to be a strategic move to show China's growing economic power and that they have and anticipate having so much financial liquidity that losing a billion dollars is unimportant to their countries economic health but deadly to ours. When the markets go down the Chinese do not pull out or sell. As far as making your own clothes - as KrisSugar rightly pointed out, are you growing your own cotton or hemp, weaving your own fabric, dyeing it, making your own patterns and designs then making all your own sewing supplies too because if your not chances are something in the chain of materials is/was made in China. Anyway, I think that the Chinese people will change China when they feel like the country needs to change, when it benefits the common man of China to re-assess their code of ethics and practices not when it makes the rest of the world happy. As with the US our government does not operate based on the opinions and actions of citizens of foreign countries. Citizens in Germany, England, France or Italy could protest the actions and ethics of the US until they pass out from exhaustion but it will not force the US to change its ethics either through economic or social threat. There is nothing that our government can do to make China behave by our ever changing code of ethics anymore than they could make us change our behaviour to suit their code of ethics. What could change China is continued economic success. The more financially successful the people of China become the more Western objects they desire and the more they abandon their traditional way of life for the Western way of life. Hey, let them self-destruct too, ever great society expands, contracts, expands then self-destructs. China is no different. Their divorce rate is creeping up as women start to make money in factories and office jobs in the cities around China. The previously rural people start to desire to get ahead so they forgo their health and work longer hours and eat more junk food and shorten their lifespans. Before their parents work themselves to death to get ahead they push their children to achieve bigger, better and more financial success. Families are no longer loyal and they abandon their villages and family businesses. Parents are watching their children leave their villages, heck even encouraging them to leave so they can to school and the to state run universities and from there they stay in the city and become more Western putting business, success, social status and material goods before family and personal ethics. At some point this new Western ideal and ethic in China will lead the people to blatantly ignore their current regime to the point where they are leaders in name only but hold no true power. Once that occurs then the People's Republic will either have to change its policies in order to maintain its valuable resource (its citizenry) or face a citizenry that disdains and ignores their government to such a point that they leave taking with them their education, skills and money. No government wants a loss of an educated skilled population or the economic fallout from a mass exodus. China will change when the citizens of that nation want it to change because doing so will immediately improve their lives first and foremost. Like pre-revoltionary America when the common people of this country were immediately affected by the decisions made by their non-representative government, eventually the People of China will demand change again when it suits their needs. Right now the economic and social state in China is benefiting a growing number of citizens there and their government and its actions are largely accepted by the growing educated productive citizens. I cannot think of a single country that is experienced wild economic prosperity and decided to forgo that because of the opinions and actions of a few people in another country.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
Oh, but as far as boycotting the Olympics goes...I think that's a BS move. Most of the people "boycotting" the Olympics probably don't even watch them anyway and were probably unlikely to be buying merchandising. In my opinion, the athletes who have worked their whole lives to be in these competitions deserve to have their accomplishments take the spotlight over pretend do-gooders. Anyone boycotting the Olympics and NOT engaging in a full China boycott gets no respect from me.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
Redegg - The book you're talking about is called "Made in China". :rotfl: I recommend it, it's a light interesting read. She makes life a little more difficult for herself than it needs to be, but it's still interesting. My husband and I boycotted China for a year or so about 8 years ago. It was quite difficult but not impossible. I don't know if China has invaded our economy even more or if we just have more disposable income now, but it seems MUCH harder now. So, now we just stay out of WalMart and do our best to buy goods from other countries even though they tend to be more expensive. But, if we need a specific thing and we can't find a viable alternative without a ridiculous hunt, we bite the bullet and buy China.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
I already have enough problems dealing with my picky eating habits and trying to find foods that I like that also don't have traces of peanuts because of my allergy. I really can't deal with that for anything else. And I'm not anti-China like everyone else. Sometimes I just wish every country(incl. China) would have the decency to not do anything intentionally to harm each other so that we could all just leave each other alone and keep out of other countries' business. As long as it directly does not harm anyone, to each his own.
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