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Saturday, July 12, 2008

U.S. author spreads 'made-in-China' boycott word


Staff writer

Curiosity is the only thing that drove author Sara Bongiorni into launching her family boycott of Chinese products in 2005.

News photo
Family view: Freelance journalist Sara Bongiorni speaks during a media gathering Thursday in Tokyo. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

Her book, "A Year Without 'MADE IN CHINA': One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy," is "not a political book, it's a funny family story," Bongiorni, an American freelance journalist living in Louisiana, said at a media gathering Thursday in Tokyo to promote the launch of the Japanese version the same day.

"It was a spontaneous idea" that occurred as she was looking around a room and realized she was literally surrounded by Chinese products, she said, adding that, at the time, she "wasn't thinking of writing a book about it."

"It's enjoyable to see in a personal family level how we are connected to the global economy," she said in explaining the message she wanted to send out with the book.

The book, first published in English last July, grew popular as U.S. consumers started becoming more aware of the health risks presented by Chinese products after Barbie doll maker Mattel Inc. in August announced a recall of dolls made in China due to excessive lead content.

Still, Bongiorni said she will keep buying made-in-China products because she has learned it is hard to avoid them.

Her rule is that she, her husband and their three children are not to buy or use products labeled "Made in China" unless it is the result of being treated to a meal or receiving a gift from someone. That means she wasn't able to exclude products with Chinese components assembled in other countries.

Bongiorni couldn't find any video games, lamps, Christmas decorations, birthday candles and other products not made in China, so she spent the year without them.

She also had to buy a $70 pair of tennis shoes made in Italy for her child instead of a similar pair made in China that would have cost about $15, she said.

After her husband lost his sunglasses, one day she saw him wearing small pink sunglasses he took from a lost-and-found box at a school. She ended up buying him a pair made in California for $150.

After a year, she learned that the affordability of Chinese products makes shopping amusing and goods disposable. But she still does not know if trade with China is good or bad.

"It's too late to turn away because we cannot live without Chinese goods," she said.

Surprisingly, she did not receive any negative responses about the boycott. She said a Chinese reporter even told her the Chinese government appreciated the effort because her mission gave China good publicity.



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