Confession can supposedly assuage a guilty conscience, so let’s see if that’ll work for me: a couple of weeks before Christmas I found a funky new dollar store on the cusp between the good and bad parts of town. The store sold those crystal-prism “suncatcher” pendants that take even the dullest, most overcast light and break it down into rainbows; I bought a few of the crystals and hung them on my Christmas tree.
Such prisms usually cost ten or fifteen dollars apiece, rather than one dollar (plus six cents tax). Why were they so cheap? Well, that’s why I’m feeling guilty: the crystals came from China. Everything in that store did. I don’t usually buy Chinese products because there are companies in the country which use actual slave labor to man their factories, and there’s no way of knowing which products were made by free people happy to have a job, and which made by slaves forced to toil for no compensation. (With one exception: never buy Chinese Christmas lights. People imprisoned for being either Christians or members of Falun Gong are forced to make them for export.)
That’s why I try not to buy Chinese, and why I feel guilty for buying those dollar crystals. But some people have told me this is the wrong attitude to take: China
may use some
slave labor but there are also plenty of businessmen in the country whose free workers are happy to have their jobs. And improving the economy of a quarter of the world’s population is a good thing, isn’t it?
There are two ways to view the Chinese situation: to avoid hurting honest businessmen and their employees we buy Chinese even though we risk enriching slaveowners; or, to avoid enriching slaveowners we stop buying Chinese even though this hurts honest businessmen and their employees. Which is the right choice?