Summary and book reviews of Made in China by Amelia Pang

Made in China

A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America's Cheap Goods

by Amelia Pang

Made in China by Amelia Pang X
Made in China by Amelia Pang
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  • Published:
    Feb 2021, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

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 patronize.

Excerpt
Made in Chine



"Mommy, what's this?" Katie asked, picking up the paper and unfolding it.

It was a note, handwritten in blue ink. The writing was neat. But the letter was filled with crossed-out words and broken English. The author had added a few Asian characters in parentheses. It looked like an early draft of something.

Julie froze as she read the message.

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.

She was bewildered. Is this a prank? she thought. She kept reading.

This product produced by Unit 8, Department 2, Mashanjia Labour Camp, Shenyang, Liaoning, China. (馬 中國遼寧瀋陽三家勞動教養院二所八大隊) People who work here, have to work 15 hours a day with out ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The book is fascinating and exceptionally well-written; it flies along almost at the clip of a novel and is eminently readable. It does, however, report the truly gruesome conditions within some of the forced labor camps, including sickeningly graphic descriptions of torture. The book's subject matter is important and the information Pang shares about these horrors is vital to understanding the problem, however, so hopefully most will be able to get beyond these scenes. I think Sun's story is likely to resonate with many other readers, and few will remain unaffected by the account. I highly recommend Made in China for anyone interested in the subject, and it would also make a great choice for book groups...continued

Full Review Members Only (799 words).

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Refinery29
The result of Pang's investigation is this powerful, illuminating book, which serves as a reminder that not only is nothing in life actually free, but it should also never be inexplicably cheap—someone, somewhere, is always paying the price.

Shelf Awareness
With clarity and sensitivity, [Pang] exposes the human cost of the global demand for cut-rate products, and provides clear calls to action for individuals, corporations and governments to stem these abuses. Any reader with half a heart will be hard-pressed not to re-examine their own buying habits after reading this incredible, moving account.

BookPage
The book is an excellent entry-level explanation of Chinese religious and political history, and how human rights abuses intersect with billion-dollar businesses. Pang connects the dots between globalization, Western consumption, and sustainability to create a clear, cohesive picture of the problem, as well as of potential solutions.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A powerful argument for heightened awareness of the high price of Chinese-made products.

Booklist (starred review)
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.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] vivid and powerful report on Chinese forced labor camps and their connections to the American marketplace...Engrossing and deeply reported, this impressive exposé will make readers think twice about their next purchase.

Author Blurb Alec Ash, author of Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China
A cinematic approach to a vital topic, which should be as close to our hearts as cheap goods are to our wallets. Amelia Pang provides close-ups of the individual stories behind labor camps, and wide-angle views of their context and history.

Author Blurb Chen Guangcheng, author of The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China
Sun's story shows the inhuman nature of the authoritarian Chinese government. The narrative consists of many people's untold stories. After reading this book, anyone with a conscience will realize it is time to take action for those who are persecuted by the Chinese dictatorship.

Author Blurb Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author
A moving and powerful look at the brutal slave labor camps in China that mass produce our consumer products. Amelia Pang, who puts a human face on the Chinese laborers who work in bondage, makes clear our complicity in this inhuman system. She forces us, like the abolitionists who battled slavery in the 19th century, to place the sanctity of human life before the maximization of profit. It is hard not to finish this book and not be outraged, not only at the Chinese government but the American corporations that knowingly collaborate with and profit from this modern slave trade.

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Beyond the Book

The Laogai Research Foundation

Prisoners in the Laogai system sewing products at a labor campIn her debut book, Made in China, Amelia Pang cites the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) as a source for much of the information she presents about China's Laogai system (pronounced like loud-guy but without the "d"). The organization's website explains:

"The Laogai system is the Chinese network of prisons, factories, and farms designed to reform prisoners through forced labor. The Chinese government uses the Laogai to persecute political dissidents and maintain its dictatorship. Much of the treatment of Laogai prisoners violates internationally accepted norms for detention."

The LRF was founded in 1992 by Harry Wu. Born in 1937 in Shanghai, Wu lived an unremarkable life as a geologist until 1960, when his criticism of the 1956 ...

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