Instead of presents, Mary Naden gives her teenaged children skateboard lessons or takes them on outings -- an effort, she says, to avoid buying goods made in China.

"I like my cheap goods, too, but there's something that just sticks in my craw," said Naden, 49, who lives in suburban Washington and works as a vocal coach.

In the wake of recalls of millions of toys with lead paint and other dangers, seafood tainted with chemical residues and toothpaste containing an antifreeze chemical, some U.S. consumers have become wary of Chinese goods.

A total of 75.8 percent of almost 1,000 people surveyed said they would not buy Chinese-made toys, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Oct. 17.

On Sept. 19, a similar poll found that 16 percent were buying no Chinese-made goods at all and 23 percent would not buy food or toothpaste from China.

"I say good luck to those people," said Mary Teagarden, a long-time China watcher who teaches at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. "It's the finest American tradition."

In addition to safety hazards, people who said they were avoiding Chinese-made products cited a number of reasons, including human rights and the environment.

"It's a repressive and yet huge regime that just doesn't care about its own people, doesn't care about its own rivers, doesn't care what it's dumping in the ocean," said Naden.


Teagarden said Western companies like Mattel Inc that blamed China for the safety problems were being disingenuous since many were due to design problems -- like loose magnets in MEGA Brands Inc's Magnetix, which killed a child.

But she also urged companies to control their supply chains rather than trust vendors.

"For the Chinese, immediate family is in and everybody else is out. If you're in, they'd never do that to you, but if you're out, beware," she said.

No one could argue that Beijing is unconcerned about tainted products. In July, China executed the former head of its food and drug watchdog, Zheng Xiaoyu, for taking bribes and dereliction of duty.

He had been linked to a scandal in which tainted medicine killed 13 patients in the southern city of Guangzhou.

"They wanted to send a message nationally," said Teagarden. "It was local people using these medicines."


For Americans wanting to avoid Chinese goods, some sacrifices are involved.

First, there's the sheer quantity of Chinese-made products on the U.S. market. China exported $288 billion in goods to the United States in 2006, according to the Commerce Department. That included $65 billion in televisions and other electronics, $21 billion toys, games and sporting equipment and $20 billion dollars worth of clothing.

An informal survey at a Toys R Us store outside Washington, D.C., found the vast majority of toys sold there were from China. In the action figure aisle beloved of little boys, all 10 of the Spidermans, robots and Transformers randomly pulled from the shelves were made in China.

Of the 10 wagons, scooters and tricycles that were sampled, all were from China, including those under the iconic Radio Flyer brand. A look at 10 dolls showed eight were from China, with the two exceptions made in Indonesia.

For food, it is more complicated. Grocery shoppers can check labels and put back seafood or garlic from China but restaurant menus often don't give a food's origin.

"You go to a restaurant and you don't have any idea where that seafood is coming from. The recent issues with the contaminated seafood caused me to stop going to sushi restaurants," said Robert Lanza, a 48-year-old engineer who works in Washington.

"If I order something like bluefish, it's a cold water fish so it's probably not coming from Southeast Asia," he said.

Even objects that seem simple -- like Alan Greenspan's new book "The Age of Turbulence" -- may turn out to be complicated. The book is printed in the United States but China exported $1.8 billion in paper, paperboard and pulp to the United States in 2006. Where did the pulp to make the paper for Greenspan's book come from?

"Or the ink?" said Teagarden. "There is no way of knowing. Our supply chains are so global and so long."

A U.S. writer, Sara Bongiorni, chronicled such difficulties in her book "A Year Without Made in China," published in June.

Mary Naden said she was particularly frustrated when she wanted to buy electronics.

"We don't put them back because they're made in China, because there's no place else to get them from," she said. "Sometimes as consumers we don't even have choices any more."