After the recent Uri attack and China’s blatant siding with Pakistan on terrorism as well as the NSG matter, opinions are slowly hardening on the Indian side too. Now many Indians are copying a long used Chinese trick – boycotting Chinese made goods.
As everyone knows, China has been using this weapon for years now, mostly targeting Japan, occasionally smaller European states like Denmark that dare to raise inconvenient issues like human rights. State run media whip up a frenzy which is promptly followed up by social media “patriots”.
Now China is getting a taste of it’s own medicine although in much smaller, almost statistically insignificant doses.
Question then is, is it right? How does one go about it?
- First, it should be made clear the target is not Chinese people. In fact the message that should go from any such boycott is one of pain and not anger. Pain that Chinese government, unaccountable to its own populace, in supporting jihadi terrorist Pakistani generals and the deep state, is acting against the best interests of all three countries involved – China, India and Pakistan itself.
- Second, any such boycott should firstly involve change in lifestyle and behaviour. For example, richer parents buy plastic toys (almost 100% made in China) by the dozen for their kids only thrown away in the attic after a few minutes of play. Isn’t it better to avoid such gifts in the first place? After all most parents do it not so much for their kids but to massage their own egos.
- Most middle and upper class kids have way too much in clothing, much of it imported, though they hardly wear them once or twice before they outgrow them. Loving parents and relatives shower them with stuff they have no use for. Can we change that? That doesn’t take a boycott.
- We should be selective and choose items for which reasonable alternatives exist within India. And which helps our artisans and poorer citizens. Locks are a good example. Diyas (earthen lamps) instead of strip lighting is another. Thankfully clothing is mostly made locally but even here Chinese goods have swamped, particularly in specific sub-sectors like kids clothing, baby wear etc.
- Where there are no choices, such as mobiles and laptops that are 100% made in China and nowhere else, we have ask ourselves do we need yearly upgrades?
- It should be a reminder to ourselves and our babudom that the reason why we import practically everything from China at prices far cheaper despite considerable distance traveled is because of our own inefficiency and incompetence that treats business as evil, profit as immoral and businessmen worse than armed terrorists. It is odd that we have to learn the benefits of a fair but capitalist, investment oriented society from a supposedly socialist state. If alongside such boycotts, we can dismantle the numerous controls and paperwork and corruption that kill our SMEs we will need no boycotts in future.
- Government can also consider sensible regulations that avoid plastic and electronic wastage without directly targeting China. Europe forced most phone makers into using common interface for charging so they dont have to bundle a charger with each handset. Why can’t we ban such bundling? After all chargers can be made here for common use?
- Many “Indian” brands have actually given up on manufacturing and simply import stuff from China and sell it in their name. Obviously that brings bigger profits. Bajaj table fans are a good example. Same goes for most iron boxes, rice cookers, even bulbs and other such items sold in Indian shops. Our trade unions and government should sit together and ponder over why this has happened and what can be done about it. While this is slightly better than the situation in other countries such as Indonesia or Thailand where even brands are Chinese, it is small consolation.
- Whenever we buy something, it should become a habit to check where it is made. Most of us don’t even check expiry dates of foodstuff. Ask ourselves a simple question – why can’t it be made here? Is it super-duper high tech? Most likely not! Solutions will follow. Reforms pushed from ground up can never fail. If a million citizens change their thinking and push for change, that can exceed the impact a dozen think tanks and intellectuals shouting themselves hoarse.
- Government should publish and keep updated, a list of top 1,000 things that we import (not just from China) along with the quantity, value and other statistics. This list should mainly target things that end users buy in large quantities (such as mobile covers, chargers etc). It should be a wake up call to our entrepreneur class to see if they can make them, better, cheaper. In most cases, the answer is yes.