Boy­cotting Chi­nese goods would harm In­dia

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

The on­go­ing stand­off be­tween the Chi­nese and In­dian troops in China’s Donglang area seems to have spilled over into bi­lat­eral ex­changes. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, Shobha Karand­laje, Kar­nataka pro­vin­cial gen­eral sec­re­tary of In­dia’s rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party, has voiced sup­port for a cam­paign against Chi­nese goods spon­sored by the rad­i­cal right-wing group Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh.

She also urged her party to “cre­ate aware­ness among the peo­ple about the prob­lems caused by China at the bor­der and the need to boy­cott Chi­nese goods”. Boy­cotting Chi­nese im­ports, she be­lieved, would teach China a les­son be­cause “the econ­omy of China is largely de­pen­dent on In­dian mar­kets”.

In one way or an­other, Karand­laje was bluff­ing — for no good rea­son. Her per­cep­tion of China’s “eco­nomic re­liance” on In­dia is laugh­ably wrong. China’s trade sur­plus with In­dia, its sev­enth­largest ex­port mar­ket, reached $45 bil­lion last year, but its ex­ports to In­dia ac­counted for just 2 per­cent of its to­tal ex­port vol­ume. For In­dia, China is its big­gest trade part­ner and home to about 3.6 per­cent of the South Asian state’s to­tal ex­ports.

Suf­fice to say, call­ing for the boy­cotting of Chi­nese prod­ucts and those re­lated to Chi­nese in­vestors is not just a fool’s er­rand but also risks back­fir­ing. The truth is, China is no stranger to such “protests”, most of which have ended up go­ing down the drain partly due to the lack of par­tic­i­pants.

The Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh has or­ga­nized a 15-day “Boy­cott Chi­nese Prod­ucts” cam­paign, and said the lat­est boy­cott, led by the group’s eco­nomic wing Ja­garan Manch, has re­ceived “huge sup­port”. But Chi­nese in­vest­ments are re­silient and Chi­nese goods are wel­comed in In­dia not only be­cause they are af­ford­able, but also be­cause they match the mar­ket de­mand. It is the In­dian econ­omy that will suf­fer be­cause of the boy­cott.

Chi­nese cell­phones have grabbed over 50 per­cent of the mar­ket share in In­dia, and are mostly as­sem­bled lo­cally. Any at­tempt to keep them at bay or shut down Chi­nese-in­vested fac­to­ries will hurt the In­dian econ­omy and cost In­dian jobs.

Com­pared with im­ports from the West that boast ad­vanced in­dus­trial chains, Chi­nese prod­ucts are prob­a­bly the only af­ford­able, user-friendly choice for In­dian con­sumers, ow­ing to the fact that China and In­dia are the world’s two largest emerg­ing economies. Bei­jing also has the need to trans­fer some of its ex­ces­sive ca­pac­ity; and In­dia is among the most suit­able des­ti­na­tions. The bi­lat­eral trade ties may be sub­ject to tur­bu­lence if the boy­cott gets out of hand.

And the lat­est cam­paign against Chi­nese goods might not nec­es­sar­ily stem from the sim­mer­ing bor­der row be­tween the two coun­tries, be­cause sim­i­lar at­tempts to “play the econ­omy card” and arouse na­tion­al­is­tic sen­ti­ment have ap­peared when re­gional elec­tions ap­proach. It is not likely to go far in push­ing for a “com­plete ban” on Chi­nese im­ports, and the Naren­dra Modi ad­min­is­tra­tion is yet to make con­crete moves to en­dorse the boy­cott.

But it is never too early for Chi­nese in­vestors to pro­tect their joint ven­tures in In­dia, as China will not com­pro­mise in the face of the In­dian troops’ trans­gres­sion.

... call­ing for the boy­cotting of Chi­nese prod­ucts and those re­lated to Chi­nese in­vestors is not just a fool’s er­rand but also risks back­fir­ing.

Mao Keji is a re­searcher at the School of So­cial Sciences, Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity. The ar­ti­cle is an ex­cerpt from his in­ter­view with China Daily’s Cui Shoufeng.

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