When Covid-19 spread all over the world, all countries started becoming suspicious of China’s role in the discovery of the virus. Many countries raised concerns over the quality of medical equipment that was imported from China to various countries including India. Apart from China’s negative role in the pandemic, Indo-China relations have also been affected by the LAC standoff on their shared borders. As a result, tension mounted in both the countries. #ChineseProductsBoycott started trending on social media and many intellectuals including Sonam Wangchuk supported this campaign.
The big question about this campaign is how are we supposed to boycott Chinese products when we don’t have any alternative for these products? India relies heavily on China for fulfilling its electronic requirements as China is the largest manufacturer of many cost effective products and 70% of these products are imported from China.
China is the market leader in electronics such as laptop, mobiles, computers etc. If you talk about China’s investment in India, China has invested in all major Indian startups: OYO, Zomato, Swiggy, Paytm, Flipkart, Ola cabs etc. We all know that it is difficult to boycott Chinese products as China has a major presence in each and every sector of India, particularly startups.
India’s manufacturing sector is not even competitive enough to cater to the needs of its domestic market, while China is the manufacturing country of the world. The phasing out of importation from China can be done step-by-step by strengthening India’s manufacturing capacity with favorable government policies. India needs to revamp its policies on trade partnerships with China and roll out strategies that fulfil the country’s requirements in a self-reliant fashion.
In my opinion, this campaign is nothing but a political agenda inspired by nationalism. These nationalists have called for a boycott of small Chinese electrical products, but have signed a contract to a Chinese company for the metro construction in Nagpur. This political opportunism must stopped as we are not going anywhere with this approach.
We need a long-term approach and plans. Promoting local brands with competitive prices as alternatives to Chinese products and ‘Vocal for Local’ are good initiatives in this regard. The only practical way to boycott Chinese goods is to deploy an import substitution and produce alternatives at home that are far from ideal, and government policies seems to be counterproductive to this end.