Roger von Oech

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If someone *did* want to go without products manufactured in China, I think the difficulty would be in knowing exactly which ones qualified! I haven't researched it, but while I've seen "made in China" printed on non-consumables, it seems like food products more often feature a "distributed by" claim. And what about parts of products? Who can say where each individual part was made?

I think that products from China DO have value, but striking a balance between low cost and the environmental and economic impact of importing from overseas is important. It's also important to me that IF the US is importing products from overseas (not just China), that those products conform to the same standards required for American made products.

Cam Beck

A few years ago some business partners and I were shopping around to have little statuettes mass produced. As our company has a decidedly American theme, we wanted to err on the side of "Made in the USA." Sadly, if we stuck to our guns there, the people we thought would most like to purchase our products wouldn't be able to afford to do so.

We found an importer and they've been handling it ever since.

We actually did the first hundred ourselves, and we tried to sell them for over twice what we could have afforded to sell them for had we shipped manufacturing to China. Not only didn't we sell more than half a dozen, but we also ended up giving them away in exchange for content. I paid for one but never got it because of the problems with production.

Since we were able to lower the price when we gained price advantages for shipping the production to China, we've had to reorder several times from the importer (and the minimum isn't small) on several of our versions. It was a real eye opener.

When we took them to a trade show, one person did come by our booth to personally protest that these patriotic items were made in China, and he would not believe that had we not done so, no one would spend the money to buy one. I guess he would rather we work for less than minimum wage and be too busy doing production work to produce anything new of value.

We'd love to have kept the manufacturing in the U.S. The economics just weren't there.

Nedra Weinreich

While it's fairly impossible to avoid products made in China, I try to direct my purchasing power toward countries whose policies I support, when I have a choice. I coincidentally just wrote a post on the many human rights-related problems with holding the Olympics in Beijing.

I certainly don't want to hurt the Chinese people who are victimized by their own government, but it's my way of making a stand against the regime.

Stephen Denny

We've outsourced so many commodities to China that it would likely be impossible to do so in the short term -- you can't find too many textiles today made here in the States (I believe the carpeting industry is still viable here, but little else).

Sort of sounds like the movie, "A Day without Mexicans" that ran a year or so ago.

A problem with China business is, of course, the time it takes to ship things over the Pacific. It's a big ocean. This makes Mexican maquilladoras attractive, if a bit more expensive. Speed is a big incentive for many industries.

An interesting twist on this idea is that "Made in China" and "Made by China" are very different things. If you peel back the onion on what is shipped from China -- and shows up as a deficit in our current accounts -- more than 50% is from foreign entities. The largest of these is Japan. The second largest is the US. When a US company builds equipment in China and ships it "home" for sale in the US domestic market, it shows up as a trade imbalance with China - even if the entire gross margin is captured here in the US.

So that "Made in China" thing isn't all bad, is it?


I agree that identifying the source of all of the products we acquire/consume (all or components/ingredients thereof) is virtually impossible, so having a "China-free" day is impossible.

I agree with Cam and firmly believe that we need to consider all aspects of "manufacture" or "provision" - environmental damage (China will probably soon be polluter #1, if not already the "champ"), social-economic destruction (the "better" of income increases from providing to USA may not be offsetting or even starting to offset the damage to people at the source - or even reach them).

And, what is done with the money and socio-economic power? I once had a fabulous consultant - always performed, genius work - who used position and income to abuse employees, family, self. At some point, we become co-dependents and enablers for those without ethics/morals.

Good discussion. Not a simple "makes money for me" issue!!

Carma Dutra

I could probably go a day without China as long as I didn't buy anything on that day.

Importing from China, Mexico or any other country is necessary because America exported their common sense many years ago when "they" discovered that a twelve year old in China or Mexico could work for $2 a day. It is really all about saving money and making larger profits.

However, as much as that upsets me the fact, (or at least it appears to be the fact), that the U.S. does not seem to require foreign countries to meet our mfg. standards is more disturbing. Maybe if they met our standards the price would go up. I don't know.

I would hope there is a way to concentrate on exporting by the U.S. Try to balance the scale.

I guess I will have to resort to growing my own food, making my own clothes and regular phone lines for business if I don't want to send any of my American money to China. But wait, where would I buy the materials? I guess I could use a flour sack like my mother did in the 1950's.

Roger von Oech

Kris: Good points. One of the consequences of globalization. I can't speak about the standards issue, but I believe the "quality" factor is much less of issue that it was 20 years ago.

When I visited the factory that makes my product, the equipment I saw was significantly better than the equipment that made my prototypes in the Bay Area.

Cam: I also would have liked to manufactured my product in the U.S. But had I done so, the selling price would have been $120 a unit instead of $29. The market at this price would have been so small that I wouldn't have made the product in the first place.

Nedra: Good point about the political side — especially regarding the Olympics. I read your post (and will comment later) and you have a valid argument. I saw the workers' quarters (at the factory I visited) and was told these were significantly better conditions compared to the ones where the people had come from.

Stephen: No puttin' that toothpaste back in the tube! Interesting distinction between "Made In China" and "Made by China".

Randy: "At some point, we become co-dependents and enablers for those without ethics/morals." I think this gets at some of the points Nedra (see above) is bringing up in her comment and post.

Carma: Some good points. "A twelve year old in China or Mexico could work for $2 a day." Again, my experience is with my own product, and the people who mold and assemble it are in the 20s and 30s.

Cam Beck

Roger -
That sounds about right. If it resulted in only a $10 - $20 increase, we would have taken it, as it would have been worth it given the nature of our products. A 600% increase just ensures no one gets what they want.

Min Guo


Ball of Whacks rocks! Alex gave one to me and we (people in the office, my roommate, my husband..) can't stop playing it. One of the main reason I love it is that it feels good when I hold it. I can understand why you are very satisfied with the manufacturing quality in China. :)

Can I go a day without "made-in-China"? Of course not, I live in China! lol I am not proud of "made-in-China" as a Chinese. But I do be proud of the improvement of manufacturing process in the last 20 years. I hope we can see more "made-in-Africa" in next 20 years.

Peter Hoh

There are blue pieces out there? I love my Ball of Whacks, and while I agree with design choice to make them all red, I'd love to get my hands on some different colored pieces.

Shakespeare's Fool

According to infoplease (

"in 2003 there were 1.2 billion out of the developing world's 4.8 billion people living on $1 per day, while another 2.8 billion were living on less than $2 per day."

Far too many of these people die of starvation.

Fewer would die if there were more $2 per day jobs in their countries.

And the faster the jobs move to those countries, the faster their wages rise.

The more balls of wacks Roger has made in China the more people there have the opportunity to eat.

Good for you, Roger.


Roger von Oech

Cam: I think there are a lot of products, especially electronic ones, that wouldn't exist in mass form without low-cast manufacturing.

Min: I'm glad you love your BOW! A truly satisfied user. I like your thought about maybe in 20 years we'll be talking about "Made in Africa."

Peter: Blue Balls? Yes indeed. Go to

John: What an altruistic way of looking at it!


Here at my computer in kitchen, I pick up my phone and indeed, Made in China. Short answer would be, No, can't go a day at this time. Not sure there is a benefit to our desire to exclude populations. In the long run, we all need to figure out this new world of globalization. I loved the WSJ article. There was another on how globalization is not about homogenizing cultures, but about appreciating variety. Let's hope so. Keep the conversations rolling!


It's also worth remembering that the "12 year old" working for $2/day isn't going to do that job forever. He or she will save a bit, take a better job, educate his or herself and then perhaps start a business -- or become a professor at MIT or LSE. These $2/day workers have big dreams and will take concrete steps to realizing them. Apple's iPod's are made in China via Taiwanese-run firms. One of these, Foxconn (Hon Hai), started out years ago as a maker of plastic television knobs.

Matthew Cornell

I suspect that the odds of our experiencing this in a decade or so will go up quite a bit. If you agree that our oil supply will continue to decrease as world demand increases, the natural conclusion is products a) manufactured with plastic and b) shipped from very far away will dramatically increase in price. This isn't necessarily bad? A convergence to more local economies would be painful, but would have some advantages...

Apologies if a bit off-topic.

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