The Indo-Sino border tensions have had some effect inland as well. As India banned 59 Chinese apps, people also resorted to breaking their Made in China television sets and phones at home as the Coronavirus raged on. But will denouncing Chinese products really send a strong message to China or is it detrimental to India’s economy? The other question which also arises is can India really use ‘Go Swadeshi’ to avenge China?
Go Swadeshi is the way?
The Central Government recently banned at least 59 apps in view of the information available that these platforms are engaged in activities harmful to the country and its citizens and alleged that some of them even give out data to the Chinese. The move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users, the government had said. The apps include TikTok, Shareit, Kwai, UC Browser, Baidu map, Shein, Clash of Kings, DU battery saver, Helo, Likee, YouCam makeup, Mi Community, CM Browers, Virus Cleaner, APUS Browser, ROMWE, Club Factory, Newsdog, Beauty Plus, WeChat and UC News.
While this was one way to send a message to China, Ladakh-based innovator and educationist Sonam Wangchuk’s call for the China boycott has also received overwhelming responses from across the country. Responding to the news stories about Amul account suspension, Google Play Store removal of anti-China apps and a Global Times report on Indian consumers, Wangchuck said, “This is good news, our medicine is hitting the right spots.” “The people’s call for a boycott of Chinese products, the uninstallation of Chinese apps is forcing China to coerce Google and Twitter to take down the anti-China narrative,” Wangchuk said in a brief Youtube video uploaded on the internet recently.
“The only takeaway from the recent China-related controversies is that people’s call for action is having a far-reaching impact, please continue on this path,” he added. Wangchuk also spoke about a report of China’s state-run publication, Global Times titled, “Indians can hardly resist buying Chinese quality goods: analysts,” adding that the boycott call must have been successful and is definitely impacting China in some ways, otherwise Global Times would not have commented on this issue. Wangchuk had appealed to fellow Indians to boycott anything Chinese after the brutal clash in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley that left 20 Indian soldiers deceased.
Wangchuk’s call of “give up all Chinese software in a week, all Chinese hardware in a year,” has had an impact on the population of millions in this country, which in turn might send a strong message to China, we can expect.
Will a ban help?
However, the outright ban or boycott call for all things Chinese might have a counter effect on India’s economy, which the government is aware of and does not know if it can afford at this time. Our leaders haven’t directly said or boycotted any products or good from China yet although they have taken a few steps on the economic front. India as a country first needs a long-term and foolproof plan to reduce its dependency on China for importing goods and also getting in investments. Several experts have also highlighted the fact that shutting off China from the scene completely could turn out to be extremely harmful to India.
Where China dominates
The Chinese have a solid hold and influence on the Indian market in term of investment and trade. In the technological world too they attract a lot of consumers as Indians have begun spending more of their time online with each passing day. Chinese tech firms including Alibaba, Tencent and TikTok-owner ByteDance (which is now banned) put up a tough fight regularly with the likes of Facebook, Amazon and also Google to reach the pool of Indian consumers.
According to Counterpoint Research analysts, Chinese smartphone brands control a majority of the Indian market currently. India has one of the largest smartphone markets when compared to other countries across the world but outside of China. However, four of the top five smartphone brands in India are Chinese and they control about 80% of the market while local and homegrown brands have only 1% of the market. “It would be difficult to replace the Chinese smartphones as there are very few alternatives in India,” Counterpoint Research analysts told CNBC, adding that local smartphone makers in India will have to invest enormously in research and development to compete with the Chinese and their products. Experts say that India can impose restrictions in the telecommunications sector and thus boycott the Chinese tech products from entering, releasing or funding in the country. “Such a move by India will be a big blow since the Chinese vendors account for roughly one-fourth of the Indian market,” Counterpoint Research also added.
In the tech space, the Chinese also have a mammoth amount of investment in Indian start-ups, approximately $4 billion, according to a report from foreign policy think tank Gateway House earlier this year. Gateway House provided three specific reasons stating why Chinese firms actually dominate this country’s tech space. First, there are not really many major Indian venture investors for local start-ups, an evident folly that China took early advantage of when their company Alibaba invested into Paytm in 2015. “Second, China provides the patient capital needed to support the Indian start-ups, which like any other, are loss-making. The trade-off for market share is worthwhile. Third, for China, the huge Indian market has both retail and strategic value,” the report also said.
Slow and steady wins the race
The Local for Vocal call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi might actually help India benefit and decrease dependency on China. While a complete ban on Chinese products immediately has the potential to destroy businesses in the country, slow and steady steps forward by reducing the trade deficit and eventually following the Make in India policy of local produce can help India get back on its feet. Manufacturing also has to be made majorly local and given India’s cheap labour cost it could definitely garner foreign investment and businesses from countries other than China. Developing infrastructure, upskilling employees, and generating local employment through the make in India scheme and the call for vocal for local should also be in focus in the upcoming days. Moving away from China, India should focus on developing ties with other neighbouring countries and increase diplomatic relations with them at the same time. To become ‘Aatmanirbhar’ India needs to be more forthcoming in attracting investment from other ally countries and thus use it to their advantage.
A calculated and well-thought-out approach is always better in times of crisis, say experts. India’s economy might be on a downward spiral now given the COVID-19 pandemic and cases on the rise. But the country will get there if they take it slow and not do something impulsive like an immediate boycott of Chinese products to get back at them for the recent clash.