Boycott "Made In China": What No One Is Talking About
Amidst calls across the nation to boycott "Made in China" products, how realistic is that for us? Would it be easy for us to boycott Chinese products completely? Here is a quick and detailed look at how and where everything stands.
Recently, there has been a rumbling in India to boycott products that are made in China after a violent standoff between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This outcry against China is also fuelled by anger over our neighbour’s mishandling of the Covid-19 outbreak. And when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation and called for “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, strong sentiments developed in India against the use of imported products, especially those imported from China. People were seen uninstalling Chinese apps from their smartphones and asking others to do the same. Thousands tweeted with hashtags like #BoycottChineseProducts #BoycottChina #BoycottMadeInChina etc. There was also a viral video of men thrashing Chinese TV sets in Gujarat to show their commitment to the movement of boycotting goods made in china. From all of these, few important questions comes up – Can we really boycott Chinese products? Are products Made in China important for India? India’s largest trading partner is China. But the trade between the two countries is, for the most part, skewed in favour of China. So, to start a “Trade War” won’t help us in any way as our manufacturing and trade abilities are still limited. It is also to be mentioned that India has a huge trade deficit with China. In 2018, India’s exports to China were valued at $18.83 Billion, while imports stood at a whopping $76.87 Billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $58.04 Billion, as per the data of Embassy of India in Beijing, China.
Likewise, in the year 2014, India’s exports to China valued at $16.41 Billion whereas imports from China valued at $54.24 Billion, having a trade deficit of $37.83 Billion. In 2015, export to China valued $13.39 Billion, while imports from China stood at $58.26 Billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $44.87 Billion.
In 2016, exports to China were at $11.75 Billion and imports from China were at $59.43 Billion.
In 2017, exports to China valued at $16.34 Billion, whereas imports were at $68.1 Billion, with a trade deficit of $51.76 Billion.
In 2019 (from January to November), India’s exports to China were valued at $16.32 Billion, whereas India’s imports from China were valued to be at $68 Billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $51.68 Billion.
This data shows that the range of goods that we import from China is huge. From electronic goods, smartphones, vehicles, industrial equipment, pharmaceutical products and so on. For instance, India’s smartphone industry is basically dominated by four Chinese smartphone brands – Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo and Oppo. These four brands combined dominate over 65% of the Indian smartphone market. Apart from this, toy products, bicycle and automobile components etc., are mostly brought from China; which explains how some sectors of our economy are heavily dependent on China. If we look at our technological space, we can see that the investments by Chinese companies and firms have spiked in the recent years. The Alibaba Group has made investments in market leaders like BigBasket ($200 Million), Paytm ($400 Million) and Zomato ($200 Million). Another well-known Chinese group, Tencent Holdings has invested in Byju’s ($50 Million), Dream 11 ($150 Million), Flipkart ($50 Million), Ola ($500 Million) and Swiggy ($500 Million). Although many Indian and non-Chinese investors hold majority of the control in these mentioned companies, making it difficult to decide whether to classify them as Chinese or non-Chinese products. But we can’t ignore the huge monetary influence of the Chinese investors in these companies. India has the potential of manufacturing pharmaceutical products in huge amount in a very short span of time, which has been globally appreciated in the past few months. The production of these pharma goods depends on Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), and guess who does India import APIs from? Yes, China. This goes on to shows us the fact that the call to boycott products Made in China will not make us “self-reliant”. Instead, a strategic plan needs to be laid out to put the call for “Atmanirbhar Bharat” in the right path. So, what can or should the Government do? The Government should take down the rates at which loans are being granted to the Indian companies, a practice which has been adopted by China long before. The Government should provide infrastructure, services and other necessary requirements to the growing Indian companies to enable them to flourish and compete with those of China. As the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced special packages for various sectors that are struggling, appropriate measures should be taken to make sure that these promises are actually being realized. Also, diversifying our import basket and lessening our dependency on China could perhaps take us toward self-reliance. As for the “Boycott Made In China” movement, things won’t go in our favour if we really pursue it without having alternate Indian products which offer the same quality as the Chinese ones. Also, we can’t forget how heavily Indian manufacturers are dependent on Chinese supplies. Moreover, we can’t deny that China has a strategic role to play in India’s growth. The Chinese government took many bold steps to uplift their GDP and develop their industries, which they are still doing. So, to make Atmanirbhar Bharat possible, India needs to take some bold steps as well. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that a better economy is always helpful and beneficial for the country and its people. We can’t deny that the trade relationship between India and China is important for both the nations and for the global economy as well. We can learn a thing or two about becoming self-reliant from China and perhaps make “Atmanirbhar Bharat” a reality.