On an internet parenting forum recently there has been a debate about buying Made in China and of course, I had to wade in! I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here.
Since I did Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing Challenge in April, I have avoided buying Made in China (and other similar countries in terms of manufacturing) unless I really can't find an alternative - which is fortunately rare.
Following the challenge, I decided to always try to buy second hand as my first choice , made in NZ as second choice and then fair trade/organic/made in a first world country if I can't do the other two. Children's shoes have been my latest stumbling block - even at the flash stores in town I could only find made in China - every pair!
My reasons for avoiding Made in China are hardly unusual - environmentally poor manufacturing processes, human rights abuses in Tibet and in their own country, appalling labour conditions, concerns about slavery, poor quality control and regulations. I don't believe the 'cheap cheaper cheapest' economy is sustainable for anyone, not for the Chinese people, not for the planet, and not for us.
The argument that I hear a lot is 'isn't it better for them to at least have jobs– if we didn’t buy their cheap goods they wouldn’t eat’I honestly think that its a bit like when people used to say that slavery was OK because otherwise these people would be on the streets, starving etc, so wasn't it better for slaves to be fed and sheltered! I think the economic model the Chinese have created, - which is 'cheap, cheaper, cheapest' is fundamentally unsustainable, for the planet and for their people.
If items were certified fair trade from China, then I would buy them despite China's human rights record - because fair trade programmes are directly helping the people. Even quality goods made in China, unless the factories have fair trade or similar certification, are made by little better than slave labour. So I won't buy them. I won't take advantage of workers that have no real choice, I won't create demand for dirt cheap labour, and I won't support these economic models.
It is really tough to do this - its not like we have money to burn. I do the second hand thing a lot - and of course, some of what I buy second hand was originally made in China. I feel that by creating a market for second hand things is more ethical than creating a market for slave labour. But it is really hard to find things that aren’t made in China – and if you can find alternatives, they are extremely pricey when we are used to buying 10 pairs of socks for $10.So its not something we can do easily.
But I have hope – even my mother in law who is particularly unconcerned by such matters won’t buy food products from China because of the poor regulations there.
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