Quick Review: “Xmas Without China” (2013)

In honor of the holiday season, I decided I would check out the documentary “Xmas Without China” to break up the sappy Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas fare. This was quite the departure, but a rather good watch.

In a quick 70 minutes, Chinese-American Tom Xia embarks on a social experiment to see if an “all-American” family (mom, dad, two kids, dog, cat & ducks) can survive a Christmas (the first 25 days in December, to be exact) without any Chinese-made products. While it may seem like just a story about consumerism and pitting China versus the U.S. and challenging ideologies, “Xmas Without China” is much more than that. This documentary also tells the personal story of Xia and his family as they chase the “American dream” and what it really means to be an American.

Throughout history, we have been indoctrinated to believe that China is an adversary (the media and politics play a big role in this) and that their products are not safe — from the toys to the toothpaste to the seafood — “made in China” is seen more as a warning label. But Chinese-Americans view it through a different lens — to them, China will always be the motherland and yes, it has a long way to go but has come so far. We see that in Tom being pulled between loyalties — when he’s in China he has to defend America and when in America he has to defend China. It’s the plight of all immigrants in America.

Have you ever taken the time to really look at where the products you use come from? Americans tout “putting America first” and buying American-made, but to sit and watch as that family practically had to put everything in storage and literally sit in the dark (the light bulbs were Chinese lol) was eye-opening. By day 15, the family was really struggling. Can America become more self-sufficient?

“Xmas Without China” is the story of two different families from different “worlds” going in opposite directions but with the same underlying theme — Christmas without China — as Tom’s family tries to become more American and the other family essentially tries to do the same. But the film also makes us remember what the season is really about — family and what means the most to you — its not about the material things. The film depicts the learning process for both families. The documentary tries to bridge the gap between the two cultures. It shows us what it means to be American — it means “coming from somewhere else” at the end of the day. Although when Tom and the American family first embark on this experiment, they have no real goal or hypothesis that they are trying to prove, the film turns out to be a cohesive, eye-opening and enlightening documentary that many could stand to watch now, in today’s current environment.

“Xmas Without China” is currently streaming on OVID.tv.