I wasn’t too optimistic when I stepped into Dollar Tree looking for napkins. I had tried to do all of my shopping pre-Ramadan, but had, alas, forgotten this household staple. The challenge this time, though, was finding napkins that were not made in China.
#SaveUighur has launched a Ramadan campaign called #fastfromChina, encouraging supporters to avoid buying anything made in China. This is to send a message to the country that its horrific mistreatment of Uighur Muslims and the denial of their freedom of religion and speech will not be tolerated.
For American Muslims, it is particularly relevant given that China punishes Uighurs for fasting in Ramadan - at least the ones who haven’t been thrown into concentration camps currently housing over one million Uighurs.
China is America’s largest goods trading partner with $659.8 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2018. The country was also the United States' largest supplier of goods imports last year.
The top products we import from China are electrical machinery ($152 billion), machinery ($117 billion), furniture and bedding ($35 billion), toys and sports equipment ($27 billion), and plastics ($19 billion).
Dollar Tree, where I was searching for napkins, imports 42 percent of its products, most of which are from China. I’ve always been a bargain shopper. It’s part of a legacy of frugality I learned from my parents, who grew up with far less than I ever had, and emphasized spending money on education versus more expensive shoes and clothes, for example - or napkins.
I was starting to lose hope as I walked up and down the aisles, searching for something, anything, not made in China. But lo and behold, there they were. Napkins, made in the USA. I quickly picked them up. I was also able to find construction paper my daughter wanted for a school project that was made in Malaysia.
But that was it.
Stepping into the aisle where the paraphernalia for Fourth of July celebrations was on sale, I was amused by how every single item I picked up, proudly proclaiming allegiance to the USA was made in China. The irony of this one was not lost on me:
A tote bag proudly proclaiming America as the “Land of the Free” - made in a land denying freedom to Uighurs for their right to freedom of religion and speech.
So my first day of fasting from China went smoothly as far as purchases go. It gave me hope that, despite the ubiquitousness of Chinese products in American stores, it’s still possible to find items made outside the country. A list below offers a few places you can start.
Let’s hope I can keep it up!
Book: A Year Without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni
List of places you can buy products not made in China