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#BoycottMadeInChina: India’s Response To Indo-China Standoff Amidst Pandemic

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As Chinese and Indian diplomats at the highest levels meet for negotiation regarding the Ladakh border standoff, it behoves us to reflect upon the scores of public figures and influencers who emerged with content promoting a ban on goods and services manufactured in China. An analysis of the intent and consequences of policies based upon such ideologies and exploring alternative approaches is fitting.

Based on my social media algorithm, I observed two parallel movements that came together to form the #BoycottMadeInChina. The first was #BanTiktok movement, which emerged to undermine Tiktok influencers, some with even a wider outreach than mainstream influencers on Youtube and Instagram. Netizens caught a glimpse of these inferiority and/or superiority complexes and their ensuing insecurities respectively in the infamous YouTube video of Carry Minati, which was later banned by the platform under the case of ‘bullying’.

Looking at the issue from a classist and casteist lens, it undeniably makes for an interesting and innovative tool to ensure that the marginalised remain on the margins. Much like how the caste system ensures the oppressed remain oppressed through generations, a society based upon class divisions — on the basis of inadequate access to resources to the poor — undermines and limits the poor class’ chances of upliftment.

The second Boycott-China movement happened around the same time, when reports of skirmishes between the Indian and Chinese forces in Sikkim and Ladakh emerged. This resulted in the #BoycottMadeInChina movement by the right-wing. Influencers under the banner of #BanTiktok saw their interests aligned with the right-wing and simultaneously, the right-wing hit a bargain in collaborating with the influencers as a way to reach a wider audience.

With influencers amplifying the #BoycottMadeInChina, the clarion call of Mr Sonam Wangchuk of the SECMOL and ice stupa fame, the masses ought to analyse, critically even, the reasons stated, the underlying intent, and the consequences of such abrasive calls.

With the new turn of events, a large chunk of the population — with no qualms of any sort in boycotting Chinese goods (looking beyond TikTok for a fair analysis) on grounds of the fascist Chinese government eroding the rights of its citizens — took to update a black poster with #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter and#ICantBreathe for protesters in the USA fighting against a racist society, and a vocally racist one at that.

The same support for a boycott movement has not been extended to the citizens of the USA who is, in fact, India’s ‘natural ally’ (as quoted by diplomats) with no aggression on Indian borders. It leaves one with a question mark on whether the values of life in China and the USA differ, and if so, what are the evaluations that the promoters of #BoycottMadeInChina turned to before drawing such conclusions?

While these gestures have been extended to the marginalised and exploited citizens in the USA and China, have Indians, who have been marginalised, victims of lynching, police brutality, racism, casteism, the migrant labourers, farmers and the LGBTQ+ group been stripped off their citizenship status? Because let alone a boycott call or a social media update, their plight has met with a deafening silence from these quarters of public figures.

Blast From The Past: A look at the policy approach of Economic Isolation towards Germany before World War.

Accepting the limitation that one cannot be expected to raise their concern on every issue, however, this cannot and should not be used a shield to defend a silence, laced with hypocrisy, on violations and fascism in our own backyards. Even at the risk of sounding crass, it is important for masses to call out and hold responsible the lack of knowledge on credible news, intellectual arguments and a humanitarian stand, against that of packaged and marketed self-interest that looks like a shallow and incomplete propaganda.

With growing international mistrust and hostilities, the speculated return of a cold war sans bipolarity, any policy approach with consequential economic isolation greatly increases the risk of conflicts (Dell Theory of Conflict Resolution). Such policy approach further goes on to aggravate the cold war characteristics, as not only is India actively involved in a stand-off against China, it is also strategically aligned with the US wherein the deteriorating US-China relations have been public knowledge for a while now.

Thus, boycotting Chinese goods might do more harm than good as it carries a risk of a high degree of pushing China to act more aggressively. Unfortunate as the confrontation was, beyond social media algorithms and shallow interests, upon the application of Kautilya’s Mandala theory, it primarily lacks shock value for the simple reason that both the McMahon line and Line of Actual Control are largely un-demarcated and remain disputed. Hence, confrontation between India and China is not unusual and will continue to remain so till such time that the border dispute is negotiated and settled.

With most, if not all, media reports quoting some those called the skirmish an unprovoked act of aggression on part of China, it becomes ever so crucial to note fresh Indian claims over Gilgit-Baltistan (POK) a week prior to the skirmish. Noteworthy, this does not go to justify the act of aggression, but rather is the key to understand the viewpoint of China. China is heavily invested in infrastructure development in Gilgit Baltistan, and the region is absolutely indispensable to China’s plans towards energy security and trade promotion.

Under the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China seeks to increase the flow of fuel from the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Sea through Gwadar, Gilgit, and eventually to Kashgar, and vice-versa for goods from China to Central Asia and the Middle East through the byzantine network of road, rail and gas pipelines. In this context, any Indian claim on Gilgit Baltistan challenging the existing status quo of the region under Pakistan, crucial to China’s return on investment, is probably perceived as a threat by China.

The current status quo of Gilgit Baltistan that China wants to maintain.

The right-wing call for a boycott argument that the balance of power is heavily in favor of China completely undermines Indian counter-balance of the BOP. Quite effectively with its Quad, India, along with Japan, Australia, and the USA, largely strategic in nature, surrounds most countries with Chinese investments, South China Sea and China in International waters entirely. None of this is new. Some may be young, others more mature, but none with an origin in the pandemic posing an immediate trigger.

The narrow narrative of a #BoycottMadeinChina promotes hostility between the two nations and its people at best, and may culminate into a war at worst. An idealist and realist may argue upon different underlying reasons, but both will agree that a WWIII is unlikely. It will not harm to bear in mind that the capitalist system that we live in today was built on the premise of violence, which has survived and grown upon it and will still seek to find profit in the violence of war, if and when it does break out. Utmost responsibility is a key precaution.

The stand-off, as well as the un-demarcated border, should be resolved through negotiations for a better chance at long-lasting peace and harmony.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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