Made in China

Made in China

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

Book - 2021
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Moving and powerful." --Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author

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 patronise.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2021.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781616209179
Branch Call Number: 331.11732 PANG
Characteristics: 278 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

In 2012, 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... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 05, 2021

From now on when I see something that I wonder "how do they make that so cheap?" now I know it is because of prison labor involving torture. This is an eye opening book. I don't know how the human body can withstand starving, being tortured, lack of sleep, filthy conditions, this is like the Holocaust all over again. I feel guilty I have some of these items that the prisoners have made and bought them thinking I got a great deal.
Most interesting point, when China was accepted into the WTO the US lost 3.4 million jobs.

May 07, 2021

Depressing that history repeating itself with business & government taking a blind eye.
Oh sure China becoming an economic powerhouse ,but culturally stagnant.
Painful to see all that unlimited human potential created more sub-optimal results the more PRC government tighten & repress.

Apr 25, 2021

Harrowing and absorbing read that hits close to home (SOS found by an Oregonian woman). Taints products that have a "Made in China" stamp and has changed my buying habits. The final chapter lists what can be done to address the ongoing laogai camps.

Apr 21, 2021

Worth reading.

Apr 02, 2021

Five stars for the courage it took the author to write this book.

I know nothing about Falun Gong, and have no interest in what it claims. I do know that whatever their belief is, there is no justification for the Chinese government to imprison its practitioners in forced labour camps, torture them, and harvest their organs for profit.

The Gulag Archipelago is alive in China today, this very minute. The only thing we can do is to consider the MORALITY of doing any form of business with China. The only solution is to put money and profit aside, and pull out all manufacturing from China. Money talks, and that is the only way to strike a blow at the Chinese Communist Party.

Next time you pick up a toy, or a piece of stationary, put it back if it says "Made in China". Tell the salesperson why you are not buying that particular item. Be willing to pay more for what you buy, or shop less for things you do not really need.

Mar 31, 2021

fuck them. i dont care bout some slaves trapped in a fortune cookie factory. the british litterly traded slaves 2 million slaves. and no ones ganna make a book bout that. peng is a race traitor sell out.

Mar 03, 2021

Nazism and Communism were two of the most destructive social systems of the Twentieth century. People are generally aware of Nazism, but Communism is somehow hidden, because most of the victims were living in China and Russia.

Feb 02, 2021

Oregonian Julie Keith was decorating for Halloween in 2012 when she came across an SOS letter, written in careful English with a mix of Chinese characters, stuck inside a package of cheap decorations she'd purchased at Kmart years earlier. The letter, from Chinese political prisoner Sun Yi, sparked a series of news stories and interest in Chinese forced labor camps. Despite the international attention turned toward the "open secret" of the Chinese manufacturing world, little changed in the long run--in large part, argues journalist Amelia Pang in Made in China, because of Americans' demand for trendy products at impossibly low prices.

Pang, a journalist with ties to the religious activist group of which Sun Yi also was a member, spent three years peeling back the layers of this stranger-than-fiction story, including interviews with Sun Yi, undercover trips to China to pose as a buyer, and covertly following trucks in and out of various Chinese factories to track suppliers and producers. Made in China is a careful account of all she learned, from the establishment of the first Chinese labor camps in the 1930s to the persistence of the present-day laogai ("reform through labor") industry--which "remains the largest forced-labor system in operation today... a vast network of prisons, camps, and various extralegal detention centers."

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. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Journalist Amelia Pang peels back the layers of one Chinese prisoner's SOS letter to reveal the human cost of American demand for cheap, trendy products.

Jan 20, 2021

After reading this book, the "Made in China" label will be more than a whisper in your ear. It will be a slap in the face. The Chinese Communist Party is actively involved in using "reeducation camps" as a source of cheap or free labor. The conditions are horrendous. This book gives firsthand accounts of the treatment given to the occupants of the camps and some of the methods of torture used to achieve the desired result. Make no mistake, this is no different than the methods employed in Nazi Germany. Specific ethnic groups and religious faiths are among the targets. This is chilling. Amelia Pang includes tips on how we can all change our shopping habits to alleviate demand from this part of the world. We can also be responsible consumers by making ourselves aware of the brand names who have a history of outsourcing with slave labor. If you don't want to spend time reading this book, you can read Sun Yi's story in the documentary "Letter from Masanjia."

A big thank you to Amelia Pang for sharing the stories of these brave men and women who have made such great sacrifices to help others be free.


Add a Quote
May 07, 2021

The former inmate-guard paused to blink back tears. "I don't want to remember these things," he said. He placed one hand stiffly on his knee. "We weren't friends. But anyone with a conscience can't hear to see this."

May 07, 2021

It is striking that in the era of big data, when corporations can store our emails, photos and web searches for eternity in the cloud, data centers and blockchains, they do not retain their factories' production records.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at FCLS

To Top