Made in China : a prisoner, an SOS letter, and the hidden cost of America's cheap goods

by Pang, Amelia, 1991-

Format: Print Book 2021
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"Moving and powerful." --Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author

In 2012, an Oregon mother named Julie Keith opened up a package of Halloween decorations. The cheap foam headstones had been $5 at Kmart, too good a deal to pass up. But when she opened the box, something fell out that she wasn't expecting: an SOS letter, handwritten in broken English by the prisoner who'd made and packaged the items.

In Made in China , investigative journalist Amelia Pang pulls back the curtain on the labor camps that create the home goods we buy at Kmart, the fast fashion we buy at H&M, and a shocking number of other products besides. The book follows the life of Sun Yi, the Chinese engineer who wrote the note after finding himself a political prisoner, locked in a gulag for joining a forbidden meditation practice and campaigning for the freedom to do so. There he worked alongside petty criminals, civil rights activists, and anyone else the Chinese government decided to "reeducate," carving foam gravestones and stitching clothing for more than fifteen hours a day.

In chasing this story, journalist Amelia Pang has conducted extensive interviews with Sun Yi and the people who knew him. She also identified and interviewed others who endured similar horrors, and who inflicted them. And she traveled to China to follow falsified supply chains herself, tracking trucks from labor camps to warehouses. The story she uncovers is a call to action, urging the American consumer to ask more questions and demand more answers from the companies they patronise.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Journalist Pang tells the story of the hidden cost of Chinese goods through mysterious hidden messages and labor camp trucks. She follows Sun Yi, a Chinese engineer who placed a help message in Halloween decorations that ended up in the hands of a woman in the U.S., who then worked to get amnesty organizations to act on Yi's behalf. Yi was a political prisoner for practicing mediation and championing the right to do so, and Pang exposes the conditions of his encampment and how the government tried to reeducate him through 15-plus-hour days of labor producing consumer goods. These products were sold cheaply around the globe, notably to the United States. Pang interviewed Yi extensively, documenting his tales of torture and abuse. As she delves deeper into his and others' stories, she uncovers the truth about labor camps and the Chinese government's attempts to hide the reality. Readers will be drawn into this thoroughly researched narrative and will be awakened by the author's pleas for consumers to be more vigilant about the origin of their goods."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Journalist Pang debuts with a vivid and powerful report on Chinese forced labor camps and their connections to the American marketplace. She spotlights the story of political prisoner Sun Yi, a follower of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong, who inserted handwritten notes into the boxes of Halloween decorations he packaged at a camp in northeastern China. In 2012, two years after Sun's release, an Oregon woman found one of his notes in a box of foam gravestones. The resulting media coverage led to widespread condemnation of China's labor practices, Pang writes, but only superficial changes. Her cinematic narrative alternates between Sun's traumatic experiences and an overview of the political history, cultural prejudices, and economic factors behind China's system of "reeducation through labor." She also explores loopholes in U.S. laws that might otherwise prevent imports from the camps, and how American consumers searching for cheap products and the latest trends create an incentive for China to continue its brutal labor practices. Noting that China responds to "financial pushback," she urges consumers to hold their favorite brands to account for the conditions under which their goods are produced. Engrossing and deeply reported, this impressive exposé will make readers think twice about their next purchase. (Feb.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Yi, Sun.
Manufacturing industries -- Social aspects -- China.
Costs, Industrial -- Social aspects -- China.
Work environment -- China.
Political prisoners -- China.
Publisher Chapel Hill, North Carolina :2021
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description 278 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 275-278).
ISBN 9781616209179
Other Classic View