Archive | July, 2013

My Musings on ‘Made in China’, (Richard’s .02 cents’ worth) by Richard Jackson

12 Jul

photoI was surprised this morning by a student’s simple SMS question: “What does ‘Made in China’ mean to you?” It’s an intriguing question, and one that I have surprisingly not given much thought to, during my seven years in China.

So, I wrote the following, and posted on the Chinese Twitter-like service I use.

My earliest associations are in fact with the label ‘Made in Hong Kong’, during the years I spent growing up in various countries. At least to this (then) western child, I guess the label was synonymous with cheap, colorful, and ‘plasticky’ -albeit irresistible – toys. Although a Chinese toy (or any plastic toy, regardless of its origin) had not a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving even a week’s worth of ‘wear and tear’ back then, they were cool enough, and we kids simply couldn’t get enough of ’em!

Fast-forward, 40+ years. Nowadays, unquestionably, many western consumers are wary of ‘Made in China’ labels. Several years ago, I visited my sister in Greece. I brought with me a suitcase full of clothes, toys, and food treats for her two small children. The clothes were greatly appreciated, but she gave the food treats and toys the ‘hairy eyeball’. As a mother, she had zero trust in them, because of the (then) seemingly never-ending negative publicity over food and toy scandals (baby milk, lead painted toys, toothpaste, poisoned pet treats, rat meat-sold-as-beef, etc.)

Nothing could possibly have had a more damaging effect on global consumers considering buying ‘made in China’ products, than ghastly wall-to-wall coverage of dead and/or sickened babies and family pets.

The global economy trundles on. To its immense credit, China has emerged as one of the two most powerful countries in the world. In spite of its countless charms and natural beauty, China is where it is today because it is the factory to the world. In strictly financial terms, it performs this task extremely well, and new fortunes are made everyday. At times, it even seems that millionaires are almost as numerous as the products being produced, at least here in Hangzhou!

Nevertheless, the negative impact of those, and subsequent, food and other scandals reverberates still, and has had a spillover effect into other sectors of the economy, such as electronics. Although always disturbing, reports of sweatshop conditions in developing countries are nothing new. But the Foxconn/Apple scandal received *a lot* of very bad publicity, and certainly did ‘Made in China’ no favors.

Such examples, along with rampant ‘shanzai’, copyright infringement, intellectual property theft, etc. continue to paint a poor picture of ‘Made in China’ in the minds of countless people, both abroad and in China. (Of course, occurrences like these are the stuff of dreams for flag-waving western politicians, who love to criticize ‘made in China’ in order to get votes.)

Sadly, there remains a significant ‘credibility gap’. Given the choice, many global consumers would much prefer *not* to ‘buy Chinese’. The point is, in many cases,  there *is* no choice. ‘Made in China’ is here to stay. A quick search of ‘Made in China’ on Amazon reveals titles like “(Poorly) Made in China” and a book written by a woman who tried to go an entire year without purchasing anything made or produced in China. (Evidently, an impossible task).

It may seem that I am overly critical of China. I do not mean to give that impression. I love your country, and certainly ‘buy Chinese’ on a daily basis. Rather, the blame for any problems with ‘Made in China’ can be just as equally laid at the feet of greedy western companies who look the other way in order to maximize profits, as it can be at the feet of local manufacturers and producers who cut corners and exploit workers, and are solely motivated by short-term profits. Both should be much, much more concerned with their long-term reputations and integrity.

The entire world really sat up and took notice of the sheer brilliance, world-class innovation, and quality of which China is obviously capable during the Beijing Olympics. How unfortunate, that the lovely afterglow of that beautiful moment has since faded. By all indications, however, China’s pragmatic new president is boldly taking the country in a new and promising direction,  which may ultimately prove as breathtakingly constructive in scope as that of Deng Xiaoping’s. That Xi Jinping has clearly made targeting corruption a major focus is a very encouraging development indeed. If he fully and successfully delivers on this promise, the ‘Made in China’ label will surely and soon earn the respect and confidence of global consumers, like my own dear sister, a middle-aged American mother in Greece.

In this vast, increasingly impersonal global economy, sits China. It is, by far, the largest country in the world. But what, exactly, is a country? It is a combination of millions of individuals. Each with a name, a face, a personality, unique skills, abilities, ideas, and dreams. In a way, somehow, perhaps the label ‘Made in China’, (evoking as it does for many in the west a mental image of millions of faceless workers churning out products around-the-clock in crowded factories) does a disservice to the people behind those products.

In its amorphous emphasis on the collective, it may be that ‘Made in China’ overlooks and undervalues the contribution of the individual  to overall success. In his poem, ‘Epilogue’, the American poet Robert Lowell commented on the individual’s heartfelt wish to be acknowledged for having, simply, been:

We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

If I were to be given the impossible task of marketing ‘Made in China’, I would re-examine the nature of consumers’ ‘personal’ connection to the products they use. Go beyond simple blind loyalty to any given brand. Forge a direct, personal, and emotional connection to the people who work so hard, yet are neither seen nor known in the global marketplace.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time for a different kind of label.

‘Assembled by (insert your name here), in Hangzhou, China. With Pride’.

Natural Birth vs. Every other kind of birth!!!

12 Jul

Good lawd! My equilibrium is off kilter! My brain feels like mush! My limbs and joints feels like someone tied me to a tree and stretched me until I look like a limp spaghetti noodle! Does this sound familiar to some of you natural birth survivors? Hard to believe but I am not making this up.

With my first baby 10 years ago, I slept through 7 hours of induced labor then 10-13 minutes of blurry pushing. I don’t remember very much with that experience. With this one, my brain was not impaired by drugs…just pure, unadulterated pain.

My whole experience started with a slight headache and a bit of fatigue on Wednesday afternoon, May 8th. By 2:30 AM, I had been having some strong but very short contractions. Called my midwife at 4:30 when I suddenly started to bleed. She pissed me off and impressed me at her calmness. (Well to tell you the truth, I was calm too considering I was in labor.) She advised me to wait another hour and see if the contractions would get closer to one minute. An hour later, I breathlessly called her back and we planned a rendezvous at the center at 6:30.

The whole drive to the center my sisters kept singing some dumb song about pain. They kept singing louder and louder as my pain got more intense. Maybe it was their way of coping with their older sister going into labor…or they just wanted to irritate me to help take my mind off of the pain…it didn’t work.

Finally we arrive and the midwife is not there….hooo hooo, hee hee (Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth)…

Thank you Lord there was a midwife assistant sleeping in the center! Fast forward 30 minutes. I am being checked by the midwife. Lo and behold I am 8 centimeters dilated! Let’s get this show on the road….WAIT! I’m not ready for this pain!

I bypass laboring on the bed or walking the halls and is half carried half dragged into the birthing tub. I pant and pant thinking “Who cut off the oxygen in the room??” Finally, the pain subsides long enough for me to tell my sister to get my husband on Skype. Come hell or high water he was going to go through the pain with me as much as possible! But I was wrong! He was so excited, babbling some non-sense about breathing and pushing and STOP! I had to eventually tell them to mute him. That didn’t curb his enthusiasm. He proceeded to make calls to 姐姐(elder sister), 妈妈(mama) and the whole gang, smiling broadly as he describes what he is seeing.

I screamed and begged for drugs, but I had chosen a birthing center that didn’t carry any type of drugs…stupid me. I felt every internal organ move, displaced it seemed with all the pain, stretching and movement of the baby. I couldn’t imagine anything more painful or anyone else ever experiencing what I felt, but I’m sure millions of women had it worst than me. Twenty-two long minutes later, I felt and heard something pop out…it was just the head and shoulders. I was instructed to take a hold and pull my baby out…all of this in a squatting position. Thank God I spent 2 years in China perfecting my squatting over the squat toilets. Anyway, as soon as I pulled him out, I just felt this immense relief and heard my sisters and my husband, Jaison giving me encouragement and praises at a job well done (someone turned his sound back on)…I promptly passed out. My midwives were quick to bring me back. I was relieved to have delivered safely and felt tremendous guilt that I re-payed the midwife assistant through the whole labor by crushing her hands.

Connor Mingzhe Wang was born at 8:33 AM on May 9th, 2013, just in time for Mother’s Day. He weighed 6 lbs 13 Oz and was 18.5 inches long.

Little did I know, my ordeal was far from over. Such a tiny little thing but he caused me a  lot of damage. I needed repairing and it took almost an hour. My physical body was on the mend, but emotionally, I was reeling. I passed out another 3 times in the next 5 hours. I eventually had to literally crawl from the center to the car to be discharged. Had I passed out one more time, I would’ve been transported to the nearest hospital and I didn’t want that.

I made it back home safely with my baby. It has been an interesting road to recovery. I am now back in China with my husband and 2 children. Will I do the natural birth again?…I have another 2 years or so to think about it, but I’ll be sure to let you know. Meanwhile here are some pictures of my crazy ordeal and my little miracle.

photo (1) photo (4) photo (2) photo (6) photo (7) photo (8)