BOYCOTT CHINA CONTROVERSY

What is Boycott China controversy?

Boycott of Chinese products is a slogan used by Internet campaigns that advocate a boycott of Chinese-made products. Commonly cited reasons for the boycott include the alleged low quality of products, human rights issues, territorial conflicts involving China, support for separatist movements within China, and objection to more specific matters relating to China, such as the eating of dog meat and the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, and more recently, the government’s alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Countries including India, Philippines, and Vietnam have called for a boycott of Chinese goods, as have separatist movements in China itself. A full boycott of Chinese products is considered to be difficult to achieve, as the country manufactures a large number of goods that are widely sold and used across the world, and also holds stakes in various non-Chinese companies.

Causes

China is the largest country in the world by population, and the third largest by territory, sharing long borders with several other nations. Border conflicts have occurred many times between China and their neighbors during its history.] At the center of Asia, some Chinese emperors attempted to expand their empires through war. There are also a lot of conflicting national interests and policies between China and other nations, like the disputes between the other nations with China and its allies. As a result of these conflicts, there is dissent against China amongst its bordering nations, and calls for the boycotting of Chinese products originate from residual resentment due to border conflicts.

In 1949, the Communist Party of China won the Chinese Civil War, gaining control of China. Since the 1980s, with the “reform and opening up”, Chinese leaders have made economic development one of their first priorities. Chinese businesses often produce goods tailored to market expectations; therefore, Chinese products generally may lack quality when consumers prefer to pay a low price.

Overpopulation is also considered a possible reason for manufacturing low-quality products; some firms cannot find enough of the needed raw materials to produce goods that serve customer requirements and follow safety standards, instead producing products made with cheaper or low-quality material. Many companies and businesses also lack capital, industry expertise, and marketing power, leading to their manufacturing of counterfeit products. Many companies produce such goods to piggyback on the popularity of legitimate companies such as Apple, Hyatt and Starbucks are copied. However, by looking at the situation in the context of history, it is often argued that this is simply a normal transition in manufacturing, and that a phase of low quality and counterfeit manufacturing is not unique to China alone, as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have undergone very similar economic phases. Keeping the aforementioned information in mind, with high quality goods being delivered from Chinese firms such as Huawei and Lenovo in recent years, it can be observed that the state of Chinese manufacturing quality is ostensibly trending upward.

The 2008 Chinese milk scandal was considered a signal of poor food safety, affecting thousands of people, and as a result, many Chinese parents do not trust Chinese milk products. In recent years, however, the Chinese government has taken many actions in order to prevent sales of substandard food.

Technology produced by Chinese companies has also been a subject of scrutiny, especially by the United States; for example, in 2018, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 into law, containing a provision that banned Huawei and ZTE equipment from being used by the U.S. federal government, citing security concerns.

Some organisations have used the COVID-19 pandemic as part of campaigns against China; for example, the Vishva Hindu Parishad in India has called for a boycott of China in retaliation for China’s allegedly being directly responsible for the Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 virus strain and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic.

Boycott in India

India and Tibet have called for a joint campaign to boycott Chinese goods in response to border intrusion incidents allegedly perpetrated by China. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh sarsanghchalak (chief) Mohan Bhagwat stated “We speak about self-dependence and standing up to China. The new government seems to be standing up to it. But where will the government draw strength from if we don’t stop buying things from China?”

In 2016, China denied the entry of India to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Along with this, China is viewed as a major roadblock by Indians towards its permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, with China having used its veto power repeatedly to keep India out of the UNSC while the US, UK, France and Russia support India. Meanwhile, China provides Pakistan unconditional support in many international stages; despite the fact that many countries including India and the USA claim that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism. Also, China makes a large amount of investments in Pakistan. During the conflict between the India and Pakistan in August–September 2016 after the Uri attack, the supporting stand of China towards Pakistan led to a campaign to boycott Chinese products in India. As a consequence, sales of Chinese products dipped by about 40 percent in the period immediately after the boycott call. Patanjali Ayurved founder Ramdev Baba was among the many people to have spoken of boycotting Chinese goods amid the 2017 Doklam standoff when nationalist sentiments had risen.

In May 2020, in response to the 2020 China–India skirmishes which were allegedly perpetrated by China’s People’s Liberation Army, Indian engineer, educator and innovator Sonam Wangchuk appealed to Indians to “use your wallet power” and boycott Chinese products. He called for India to “stop using Chinese software in a week and hardware in a year”. This appeal was covered by major media houses and supported by various celebrities.

In spite of various campaigns by notable individuals and organisations, Chinese companies still have influence over various markets, especially relating to consumer technology and software. For example, as in March 2020, Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme and Vivo accounted for approximately 73% of smartphone sales in India. On the other hand, Samsung Electronics and Nokia, both companies that once led the market, together accounted for less than 22% of smartphone sales. In spite of the campaigns, retailers have stated that the growing rhetoric is unlikely to sway consumer behaviour, especially due to alleged “value for money” in Chinese products, especially smartphones.

Chinese companies also invest heavily in Indian companies; 18 out of 30 of India’s billion-dollar startups are funded by China. Major Chinese investment firms like Alibaba Group and Tencent hold investments in major companies that are considered to be Indian, like BYJU’S, Zomato, Ola Cabs and Flipkart. In spite of the Indian government recording the origin of foreign direct investment, many Chinese companies exploit loopholes by investing in Indian companies through their non-Chinese subsidiaries; for example, Alibaba’s investment in Paytm was by Alibaba Singapore Holdings Pvt. Ltd. Hence, these investments don’t get recorded in India’s government data as Chinese investments.

In view of these circumstances, various other issues have been pointed out. For example, B. Thiagrajan, managing director of Blue Star Limited, an Indian manufacturer of air conditioners, air purifiers and water coolers said “We are not worried about finished goods. But most players across the globe import key components such as compressors from China,” and added that it would take a long time to set up local supply chains, and that there were few alternatives for certain kinds of imports. Besides, boycotting popular Chinese apps such as TikTok has been suggested as a more effective alternative to boycotting physical goods in terms of value added because there are multiple alternatives

Is it practically possible to boycott China?

It is not practically possible for India to cease the entry of Chinese products altogether. Even if the Government passes a law to stop the official use of Chinese products, then also Chinese products are going to hit the market through unauthorized entry and smuggling. People are all so attracted towards the Chinese products because they are cheap. We all know that India is a third world country or a developing country. So the majority of the population here are lower middle class or lower class. As a result they do not have enough money to spend on costly luxurious things. So they try to settle for a cheap but look-alike substitute by which they can still enjoy some of the benefits of the modern world. This chiefly includes smartphones, smart watches, laptops and other electronic items.

Apart from that, there is a huge annual transaction between India and China. This boosts the economy of both the countries. But as China is the producer of the goods, so even if they are cornered, they can produce their own stuff and carry on their life almost normally. But if the boycott is started by India, then India will not only suffer monetary losses, but also it will not receive the goods needed for the day to day life of its citizens.

So although the hostilities between India and China in recent times is completely unacceptable and also there have been reports that China heavily funds Pakistan, which is renowned all over the world as the hub of terrorist funding, it is not pragmatic for India to completely stop using Chinese hardware, that too in the course of a year. But, of course, if the Indian Government plans to stop the use of Chinese apps and softwares, that is a still practical decision but then Indian companies will have to come up with applications and softwares that would replace the boycotted Chinese apps. In a nutshell, before India plans to make any drastic decision, it should check all grounds to see if this #BoycottChina is a very practical decision or not.