Last year, I stopped buying products made in China — clothes, furniture, office supplies, everything.
It wasn’t about Muslims in concentration camps. It wasn’t about live prisoners’ bodies being carved up for organ donations. It wasn’t about intellectual property theft. It wasn’t about illegal shipments of fentanyl to our shores. It wasn’t about trying to quell free speech in Hong Kong or the United States. It wasn’t about the coronavirus, which we only learned about this year.
It was about all of it.
This is not a personal condemnation of everything Chinese. I have met many Chinese people, and I like them. I am happy to have Chinese friends.
And I do not hold myself out as a foreign policy expert. I expect our country to continue to work with China on various issues. It would be folly not to engage with a nation of 1.4 billion people.
But for me, at least for this moment, too much is enough.
1. Here is a roundup of the scope of “re-education camps” now detaining Uighur citizens in Xinjiang province.
A third report, published in California last week, said this:
The number of heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths in San Francisco more than doubled in 2019, according to the city’s medical examiner’s office statistics . . . . Officials said 290 deaths involved fentanyl and heroin last year compared to 134 in 2018. Fentanyl was involved in 234 deaths, up from 90 in 2018.
4. This December document from a federal court describes the case against a Chinese man charged with shipping 40-foot containers of counterfeit “Nike” and “Louis Vuitton” sneakers to ports in New York and New Jersey over a period of six years. This 2018 news story describes a different prosecution involving 27,000 pairs of “Nike Air Jordans” shipped to the same two ports.
But catching two shippers of counterfeit sneakers at two American ports is nothing in the broader scheme.
This story suggests that e-commerce, including goods sold on Amazon, is a growing channel for Chinese counterfeiters.
This post, from a security company, says the scope of counterfeiting runs from fashion to toys to pharmaceuticals and that 88 percent of the fake stuff comes from China.
As a practical matter, not buying Chinese products is getting more difficult, even on Amazon. Last year, Chinese products were shipped to Vietnam, relabeled and then sent to the U.S. to avoid tariffs.
5. China has tried to build its scientific and military credibility on the cheap, with bribes and outright theft. Last week, a prominent Harvard chemist whose lab did work for US defense agencies was arrested for lying for years about his affiliations with a university in Wuhan, apparently for money. This 2017 article describes other examples of stolen technology.
Even the Russians are steamed about Chinese theft of their military research.
6. Huawei, a theoretically private Chinese company, is a particularly troubling outfit.
A story last summer described its rewards program for employees who steal other companies’ intellectual property, its flat-out theft of a Texas company’s product design and its marketing of the same product under the Huawei name.
Also last summer, Huawei was reported to be helping set up citizen-surveillance systems for governments in Uganda and Zambia and possibly other countries on the continent — rather as the Chinese government keeps track of its own citizens.
(In fact, China is active in Africa. A 2018 story reported African Union leaders’ charges that monitors and bugs were incorporated into a new $200 million Chinese-built AU headquarters in Ethiopia.)
At the moment, a senior Huawei official is facing an extradition hearing in Canada. The US wants to prosecute her for fraud — effectively using sham corporate identities to violate US-Iran trade sanctions, plus stealing US communications technology. The Chinese have denied all the charges and retaliated by detaining two Canadian citizens for more than a year.
There is much more that could be said, but I believe I have made my point.
My primary objection is based on human rights, and my reasoning is this: If a company in my town discriminated against people of any group, I wouldn’t do business there.
I can’t do anything personally about the damage in matters from defense to commerce. It took centuries for countries and companies to build webs of trust in their dealings with each other. Now those systems are being undermined by a government whose only ethical construct seems to be that it’s perfectly fine to do anything as long as you can get away with it. I find that troubling, but I’m not in a position to do anything about it.
Mostly I do not want to feel complicit anymore.
I don’t think I’m the only one.