After Some Early Setbacks, India ‘Slowly but Surely Boycotting China’

Commuters pass by an advertising board of Chinese mobile phone maker VIVO on a street in a closed market in Siliguri on June 22, 2020. - Chinese sponsorship of India's biggest sporting event was under threat on June 19 after a border clash between the two countries sparked calls in …
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India’s efforts to boycott Chinese goods in response to a border clash in eastern Ladakh is “slowly but surely” taking off, India’s WION News reported Tuesday.

The boycott ran into some early setbacks, including the belated realization by Indian consumers that they do not have affordable alternatives to Chinese imports in some key markets.

WION’s report was straightforward in listing the “challenges” faced by the #BoycottChina movement, including India’s huge trade deficit with China — $16 billion in exports versus $65 billion in imports — and the shortage of locally-produced alternatives to some of those imports.

The report also noted the past difficulty for consumers in discerning which items are truly “made in India,” a problem the government addressed this week by making country-of-origin labels mandatory in the official electronic marketplace and urging private sales operations to follow suit. WION’s editorial suggested the new boycott movement is different than past efforts because the Indian government is taking the lead and doing what it can to assist the boycotts, whereas previous boycotts were generally organized by private trade groups.

WION did contend, however, that the massive trade deficit gives India plenty of “non-essential cheap imports” from China that can be boycotted while local alternatives are developed:

Domestic production can immediately reduce India’s dependence on China.

India levies anti-dumping duties on 90 Chinese products. So the plan is to slap this on at least 300 more products.

There are at least 40 sectors in the Indian industry that can make these products — with a much better quality.

The government must help them to step up and stop cheap Chinese imports. 

These moves are unprecedented.

This is India’s biggest clean-up of imports from one country.

WION reported suspicions that China might “find a way to dump its products in India indirectly,” so the Indian government is “reviewing its trade pacts with other countries” to ensure they do not become conduits for Chinese goods.

“Increased tariffs, no government procurement and restricted presence on e-commerce platforms in India, and reviewing trade deals — India is slowly, but surely, boycotting China,” the article concluded.

Smartphone manufacturer Xiamoi acted quickly to distance itself from the backlash against China, with CEO Manu Jain saying in a Wednesday interview that he understands “people are angry” and contending that his Chinese-owned operation is “more Indian than Indian handset companies” because it sources most of its components locally, uses local labor under local management, and guarantees that “100 percent of the data of Indian users stays in India.”

“People are talking about U.S. brands, but forgetting that U.S.-branded phones are 100 percent made in China, every single component, and they’re just importing to India,” Jain argued.

Jain described Indians who protested outside several Xiamoi stores as “fringe elements” and “people who are very loud” while seeking publicity, comparing them to Twitter’s notorious outrage mobs.

Chinese state media continued its drumbeat of editorials telling Indians that boycotting Chinese products would be economic suicide. On Wednesday, the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times helpfully provided “Indian nationalists and their followers” to “better understand the potential devastating consequences of their words and deeds on the already fragile Indian economy” with a lengthy report that detailed how India is wholly dependent on cheap Chinese goods, and would subject its poor to unnecessary pain by forcing them to choose more expensive Indian alternatives.

The Global Times used Xiaomi smartphones as an example of a superior Chinese product the Indian working man simply cannot live without, a propaganda decision that might cause Xiaomi’s CEO some consternation since he is putting so much effort into advertising his phones as Indian-built.

The Global Times report hammered some familiar themes from other editorials over the past two weeks, warning that Indian manufacturers are heavily dependent upon components and raw materials from China, while Indian entrepreneurs rely on Chinese investment capital. The Chinese paper confidently predicted critical damage to India’s automotive and pharmaceutical industries if the Boycott China effort is not reined in soon.

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