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

Amelia Pang, 1991-

Book - 2021

"After an Oregon mother finds an SOS letter in a box of Halloween decorations, a story unfolds about the man who wrote it: a Chinese political prisoner, sentenced without trial to work grueling hours at a "reeducation" camp--manufacturing the products sold in our own big-box stores"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biography
Biographies
Published
Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2021.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
278 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [228]-278).
ISBN
9781616209179
1616209178
Main Author
Amelia Pang, 1991- (author)
  • Prologue. A message from the graveyard
  • The brink of death
  • Laogai nation
  • Who was Sun Yi?
  • Rebel meditators
  • Entering Masanjia
  • Audits and subterfuge
  • Desire and denial
  • Ghost work
  • A Laogai love letter
  • Dangerous words
  • Historical complicity
  • Transplanted
  • Wrong answers
  • Legal channels
  • We made it
  • Fight and flight
  • Blending in
  • Jakarta
  • The state of camps today
  • Epilogue. What we can do.
Review by Booklist Reviews

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. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

This volume by Pang, an investigative journalist, attempts to probe the factors of China's present reality that have hastened production speeds and enabled American consumerism. Over 19 chapters, the book seeks to illustrate the true cost of the cheap goods that the US imports from China, while raising questions and demanding answers from the companies readers patronize. Through an overview of the political history, cultural prejudice, and economic factors behind China's system of "reeducation through labor," the author explores loopholes in US laws that might otherwise prevent the import of goods from reeducation camps. Pang suggests that American consumers' ongoing quest for cheap products creates an incentive for the camps' brutal labor practices to persist. She believes that "we can use our spending power to limit how much an authoritarian government will profit from the abuse of prisoners of conscience and ethnic minorities," arguing that "without high-volume orders from foreign companies, perhaps there will be fewer arbitrary arrests to help prison factories meet production quotas." A prologue, epilogue, and endnotes round out the text. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels.--S. K. Ma, emeritus, California State University, Los AngelesStephen K. Maemeritus, California State University, Los Angeles Stephen K. Ma Choice Reviews 59:02 October 2021 Copyright 2021 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Investigative journalist Pang uses her Los Angeles Press Club-honored skills to show that many of the cheap products America gets from China are made in labor camps. The story starts with a prisoner's handwritten plea for help (in broken English), found by an Oregon woman in a package of Halloween decorations, and moves to our meeting the prisoner—an engineer jailed for joining forbidden meditation practices. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"After an Oregon mother finds an SOS letter in a box of Halloween decorations, a story unfolds about the man who wrote it: a Chinese political prisoner, sentenced without trial to work grueling hours at a "reeducation" camp--manufacturing the products sold in our own big-box stores"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An award-winning investigative journalist reveals the labor-camp practices behind many of the home goods and economy fashions sold through major retailers, sharing the story of an engineer whose spiritual views rendered him a political prisoner. 50,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A Most-Anticipated Book of the Year: Newsweek * Refinery29 'timely and urgent . . . Pang is a dogged investigator.' 'The New York Times Book Review'moving and powerful.' 'Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize'winning journalist and author Discover the truth behind the discounts   In 2012, an Oregon mother named Julie Keith opened up a package of Halloween decorations. The cheap foam headstones had been five dollars at Kmart, too good a deal to pass up. But when she opened the box, something shocking fell out: an SOS letter, handwritten in broken English.   'sir: If you occassionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicuton of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.' The note's author, Sun Yi, was a mild-mannered Chinese engineer turned political prisoner, forced into grueling labor for campaigning for the freedom to join a forbidden meditation movement. He was imprisoned alongside petty criminals, civil rights activists, and tens of thousands of others the Chinese government had decided to 'reeducate," carving foam gravestones and stitching clothing for more than fifteen hours a day. In Made in China, investigative journalist Amelia Pang pulls back the curtain on Sun's story and the stories of others like him, including the persecuted Uyghur minority group whose abuse and exploitation is rapidly gathering steam. What she reveals is a closely guarded network of laogai'forced labor camps'that power the rapid pace of American consumerism. Through extensive interviews and firsthand reportage, Pang shows us the true cost of America's cheap goods and shares what is ultimately a call to action'urging us to ask more questions and demand more answers from the companies we patronize.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A Most-Anticipated Book of the Year: Newsweek * Refinery29

“Timely and urgent . . . Pang is a dogged investigator.” —The New York Times Book Review


“Moving and powerful.” —Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author 

Discover the truth behind the discounts
 
In 2012, an Oregon mother named Julie Keith opened up a package of Halloween decorations. The cheap foam headstones had been five dollars at Kmart, too good a deal to pass up. But when she opened the box, something shocking fell out: an SOS letter, handwritten in broken English.
 

“Sir: If you occassionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicuton of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

The note’s author, Sun Yi, was a mild-mannered Chinese engineer turned political prisoner, forced into grueling labor for campaigning for the freedom to join a forbidden meditation movement. He was imprisoned alongside petty criminals, civil rights activists, and tens of thousands of others the Chinese government had decided to “reeducate,” carving foam gravestones and stitching clothing for more than fifteen hours a day.

In Made in China, investigative journalist Amelia Pang pulls back the curtain on Sun’s story and the stories of others like him, including the persecuted Uyghur minority group whose abuse and exploitation is rapidly gathering steam. What she reveals is a closely guarded network of laogai—forced labor camps—that power the rapid pace of American consumerism. Through extensive interviews and firsthand reportage, Pang shows us the true cost of America’s cheap goods and shares what is ultimately a call to action—urging us to ask more questions and demand more answers from the companies we patronize.