I think I first heard of this Xmas Without China documentary project via Kickstarter. The feature documentary takes place right before December of some recent year around the Christmas holiday in Arcadia, California, a neighborhood that used to be predominantly white, but is now half Asian.
Tom Xia, a Chinese-American immigrant who came to the U.S. with his parents when he was around 8 years old, seeks out a family to volunteer to go the many weeks before Christmas to live without as well as purchasing any Chinese products for the holidays. We follow the all American Jones family as they empty their home of Chinese-made products and try to live and prepare for the holidays without any Chinese products or gifts – and it is challenging, and some of their American economic and Chinese product safety concerns. In a juxtapose, we additionally learn a lot about Xia and his family, which is a story of living the American dream, coming from nothing to slowly building a successful higher-end Chinese jewelry and arts craft store and see the family move into their dream home.
I would say what resonated with me the most was Xia’s statement that when he was in the United States, he had to defend China, and in China, he had to defend the United States. This reminded me of the feeling that many Asian Americans like myself find ourselves when we never are more reminded that we are American than when we are in Asia, and often more Asian when are in American. Xia was born in China and we see him in his early twenties where although he carries a green card, he has yet become a U.S. citizen, though his parents have already naturalized. By the end of the film, we see Xia take the Pledge of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony as he becomes an American citizen.
Personally, as a Taiwanese American, my favorite brief moment was when the matriarch of the Jones families cheats a little when she puts back the Christmas stockings over the fireplace and says that it is okay since the stockings were “Made in Taiwan.”
I saw this documentary via a DVD screener, so I can’t comment on the questions that arose during Q&A. I’d say that I enjoyed the film overall, which is a little over an hour. Though I would say the documentary is more of a storyline that captures a snapshot of Americana of two different families more than a deep exploration of the growing interdependence of Americans love for inexpensive and affordable goods, with the Chinese’s willingness to manufacture and export them (sometimes of questionable working conditions, wages and quality and safety of goods).