The flare-up at the India-China border that led to soldiers, from both sides, being killed and the continuing grandstanding by the two Asian nuclear giants has led to a clarion call in India to boycott Chinese products.
This might sound like an appropriate and even a strong response to Chinese aggression. ‘Every time you buy a Chinese product, you are funding a bullet against an Indian soldier’ is the point in favour of the argument, and it might well be true.
But is it that simple to boycott Chinese goods? We have a long way to go before we can be totally free of China-made stuff and mere sloganeering will not help. We will need to do a lot before we get there, and this is a long, time-consuming journey.
Eventually, if India manages to set up strong manufacturing capacities and stops reduces trade with China, the Chinese economy will certainly feel a pinch.
1. Be prudent
Every time there is a clash or eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, there are calls to boycott products and halt trade with that neighbour. However, it would be prudent to think things over before taking any major step.
Let’s face it: we in India are heavily dependent on Chinese goods. Hundreds of products that we use everyday, even those made in India, have components that are of Chinese manufacture.
Products such as smartphones parts, car parts, toys, LED lights, electrical goods, machine parts, chemicals, pharmaceutical inputs, etc that are a critical component of India-made products come from China.
So not just finished products, even materials or several parts that are required for a product are manufactured in China, thus even if we want to boycott Chinese products, we would not know what we are buying is entirely free of spares from the aggressive neighbour.
2. Become self-sufficient in manufacturing
Till such time as India becomes self-sufficient in producing these goods/spares, it would be difficult to boycott Chinese products. This does not mean we should not, all it means that India would have to set up manufacturing abilities to ensure effectiveness of quality and cost before we begin large-scale boycott.
This will not happen overnight and therefore we need to be patient. However, our resolve too should be firm so that sooner or later we achieve our goal.
Even Chinese investments in Indian start-ups and companies is something we cannot wish away. So boycotting these could Indian companies.
The need of the hour is to ramp up our manufacturing ability, increase domestic production and then look at banning products from hostile nations.
‘Made in India’ products if good and cost-effective would always be preferred by Indians.
3. Be smart not emotional
It is therefore necessary for India, instead of banning Chinese goods, to enhance our own capabilities, set up a stronger physical infrastructure, provide of a robust soft infrastructure, embrace some reforms to become globally competitive.
The best time to do that would be now as globally there is a negative view about China.
Some experts have been saying that boycotting Chinese products will hurt the Indian economy more. Yes, it might be true, but over time as we speed towards self-reliance, our dependence of Chinese goods will reduce, without making much of a difference to India.
4. Simultaneously, India needs to have an awareness drive on this so that it sparks off a citizens’ movement which can finally lead to Indian manufacturing capacity increasing manifold.
5. India will also have to handle this with care at global forums, such as the World Trade Organisation. China has since long thrown global business ethics to the wind and dumped low-cost products into various countries putting the local native industry and businesses to risk.
6. India will have to start becoming self reliant, increase facilities to manufacture goods that we mostly buy from China. However, it will have to leave it to citizens to decide what they want to buy and from whom. There is also a call to ban imports of Chinese products in the country, but the government has been mum on the subject.
7. The Indian government must also make it compulsory to mention country of manufacture on all goods and products. This should also extend to ecommerce companies and online retailers, so that we know the country of manufacture of all the goods sold online.
There are several other ways of getting back at someone you consider your enemy, but it needs to be done smartly.
Dear readers, if you have any more thoughts, ideas on how to become more self-reliant and buy less from hostile neighbours, do share them below.