Imagine: Life without China...?

Imagine life without China?

Two American families (unrelated) went ahead with a life adventure to find out what it was really like. 

In 2005 the Bongiorni family went on a year long experiment of not buying anything made in China. 

Almost eight years later, the Jones family, challenged by their Chinese immigrant neighbor, celebrated their first (and perhaps only) Christmas ever without any Chinese products. 

Though a year of living without "made in China" might sound mission-impossible to you. A month, especially the month of "December" made it no less easier.

Worse, the rules were harder.

The Bongiorni family decided to live a year without buying anything from China or with Chinese component (if they had known about it). They called it "boycotting." They ended up boiling water in a pot and pouring water in filters over a coffee mug for a year because they couldn't replace their coffee maker (which were all made in China).

The Jones family, however, went a step further. They had to go through the month of December (including Christmas) without buying or even using any products made in China.

They had to first remove (temporarily) everything "made in China" from their home while not purchasing anything new with the label for an entire holiday season. They soon discovered that they were giving up not just their toys, plates, lamps, and clothes… but also the beloved hair dryer, coffeemaker, Xbox, and most of their Christmas decorations. Their house went dark and their tree was bare of Christmas lights.

Life became so much harder, if not much more costly. It goes without saying that there was comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears.

The essence of the two family's adventure, however, is not whether you can or can not live without China. Surely it is difficult, but it is not impossible. What matters is the implications to you, me, and everyone else living in this increasingly interconnected world. 

  1. Be conscious. Both families started their adventure of living without China because of cheap or low-quality (or even safety concern over) Chinese products. Yet, to their surprise, only when they started to be conscious about the origin of the products, they started to realize just how much they own has a "made in China" label and to what extent "made in China" has become an integral part of their lives . 
  2. Polarity is not the reality. Such challenges were not just about products, or products made in China. It is about reality, a reality that we all live in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. Therefore, instead of "with" or "without," why can't we embrace and have the best of both worlds?
  3. It's about "us" really, not just products. It went beyond just products. In a way, we are all products of an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. "Made in China," coupled with western education and experiences, can be an added advantage when it comes to talent, for instance.  
  4. Find a middle ground. In her book, A Year Without Made in China, Sara Bongiorni had detailed account of their family's one year life adventure (Wiley, 2007). When asked by friends and strangers alike if it was possible to live without China, her response was: "Not a chance." Remember, that was a decade ago (imagine what she'd have said today). In the end, they concluded that they couldn't live without China forever and had to come to terms with the world as it is. They found a middle ground and started buying things from China again. 
  5. It is about relationships and self. XMAS without China on the other hand, is about the improbable relationships between two families living side by side yet worlds apart, about the interaction between strangers who get to know each other through odd circumstances. It is an exploration of globalization, the intersection of cultures, personal identity, family, success, consumerism, and the shifts in our imaginings of the American or Chinese dream.
  6. Be inclusive. I learned during my MBA studies that there is one magic word that would help improve your communication skill tremendously. That is "and." Try it. Every time when you want to say "but", say "and" instead; and every time when you want to say "or", try "and" instead, and see how it works. The same when it comes to China and anything Chinese. 
  7. Be appreciative. It's part of human nature that we only appreciate things when we lose them. The same happened to the two families who experimented with living without Chinese products. They started appreciating more of the convenience, reasonable costs, less hassle or drama, and other benefits coming along with the Chinese products in their lives. 

Which brings me to my next point: Until you realize, China may have already played a much bigger part than you'd have ever imagined in your life. It might be the Chinese products you own, Chinese food you eat, Chinese restaurants you go to, Chinese neighbors you bump into in your community, Chinese colleagues or bosses you work with, Chinese counterparts you deal with, or somewhere in your network, you may also have Chinese acquaintances or friends.

But it is NOT about China or anything Chinese after all. In a increasingly globalized and interconnected world, there is little room for polarity. Let's all be conscious about the differences, embrace the differences, and at the same time, appreciate the differences. That's how the world is and why the world is interesting as it is. There might be differences and conflicts, yet you can always find a middle ground. 

Don't believe me? Try out the "Life without China" experiment yourself and see it for yourself. And don't forget to tell me how it goes.