What if we boycott Chinese products

globalization : Survival without "Made in China"

When Sara Bongiorni decides to put China in front of the door, she kneels in front of two mountains of Christmas presents. Products from China are stacked on top of one. On the other gifts from the rest of the world. Bongiorni counts 25 to 14 pieces. The DVD player is just as “Made in China” as the rubber toys for the dog and the doll for her daughter Sofia.

Sara Bongiorni, who lives in the US state of Louisiana and works as a business journalist, had become curious. She could read it almost every day: American companies are moving their production to Asia so that Americans are losing their jobs, China is becoming more and more powerful and exporting more and more products to the USA. She wanted to control all of this herself on Boxing Day. She looked at the little white signs and the stamps on the gifts that gave information about their country of origin. After the count, she is shocked at how wide the communist country has spread in her house. That's why Bongiorni dares an experiment: She and her family want to live twelve months of the year without “Made in China”. On January 1, 2005, the boycott begins, about which she has written a book: "A year without, Made in China", it says and has now been published in German by the publishing house Wiley.

In view of China's increasing violence against the Tibetans in recent weeks, Bongiorni's idea has become more topical. Only politicians and sports officials can decide whether to boycott the Beijing Olympic Games as a means of exerting pressure on the government. Bongiorni's experiment shows that individual families can also set standards.

There is no question that China does not care whether a family like the Bongiornis more or less buys a doll - but it is about the feeling of consumers that they are using their little power more consciously.

The American saw her boycott not only as a political statement. She wanted to break down the effects of globalization on her family and know whether a life without Chinese products is still possible. "We always pretend we are the strong and offer China great opportunities to sell its products with us," says Bongiorni. "In doing so, we forget that it is us who have long since ceased to be able to do without China."

The rules of their boycott: All things that were already in the house and labeled “Made in China” could continue to be used. However, new products from China were banned - a challenge that upset the consumption of Bongiornis. “Made in China” can be found almost everywhere: No country produces televisions, DVD players, cell phones, shoes, clothing, lightbulbs or sports equipment anymore. Sometimes Bongiorni had doubts. After all, the Chinese benefit when their country develops.

In fact, there is less and less industrial production in America. “Made in America” or “Designed in America” still exist, but “Made in America” is rarely found. Thousands of workers in the so-called Chinese iPod city screw Apple's popular music player together. Designer Ralph Lauren also has some of his expensive fashion made in China. Almost 100 percent of the dolls and stuffed animals sold in the United States come from China, as does 95 percent of all video games and holiday decorations.

The Bongiornis therefore searched the shops for hours in order to still be able to buy toys for their children. The then four-year-old Wes often didn't want to understand why he wasn't allowed to have things like a plastic pumpkin on Halloween. “Some salespeople thought we were crazy,” recalls Sara Bongiorni. Instead of the price, she always paid attention to the label first. There simply seemed to be no alternatives for everyday objects such as screws and batteries. After days, she and her husband Kevin found a replacement from Mexico. Once he smuggled a couple of paintbrushes into the house behind her back, tired of searching. The Bongiornis had to postpone other purchases until January 2006. Sarah Bongiorni desperately needed a new PC, but getting a device without parts from China was impossible. A friend therefore accused her of not really boycotting China, but of only delaying purchases of Chinese products. “And he's partly right,” admits Bongiorni.

Such a boycott would hardly be possible in Germany either. China is one of the most important trading partners - according to the Federal Statistical Office, goods worth 54.6 billion euros were imported from China in 2007, mainly computers and office equipment, but also televisions, radios, batteries and clothing. The Federal Republic only obtained more products from France and the Netherlands.

The Kaspers family from Dormagen imitated the Bongiorni experiment for the WDR program “Markt” in February 2008 - only for one month, but with stricter rules: The Kaspers were no longer allowed to use the products they already had from China. The phone was switched off and an old model with a battery was reactivated. They replaced their kitchen radio with an ancient device with a crank that they rummaged from the cellar. The Kaspers even had to break the boycott for their son Maximilian. Otherwise, the 16-year-old student would not have been able to take part in math classes, pocket calculators are only "Made in China", as a visit to various electronics stores showed. “We were really surprised how limited the options are despite the wide range of goods,” says Marita Kaspers. If they did discover an alternative, it was often too expensive.

But even if it says “Made in Germany”, it is not always exclusively from Germany, emphasizes Christian Fronczak from the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations. If a product imported from China is processed further in this country, in the end only Germany is the place of processing on the packaging. “There is no labeling requirement, and because products do not have a passport with them, there is a lack of transparency,” he says. It is all the more important in the globalized world to define and control standards. "Consumers have a right to know the" inner values ​​"of the product," says Fronczak.

Sara Bongiorni is now shopping more consciously, but despite the violence in Tibet, she does not want to do without Chinese products. “It's just too exhausting,” she says, but believes: “A boycott might at least give some people the feeling that they can do something about the discrimination themselves. But you should know beforehand that your life will change enormously as a result. "

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