Ever since the novel coronavirus swept the entire world off of its footing, the general emotion in the people is of rage against the country of origin and spread for this virus, the world has not just reduced an entire country to memes and directed
hate, but has also blamed and demanded that the country at large should suffer, thereby demanding that nearly 18.47% of all people alive be made to suffer more than what they already have had to put up with courtesy of the pandemic.
This was the mood since March, and people were only beginning to calm down when on 15/16 th June, 2020 happened a violation of agreements along the Indo-China border, the Line of Actual Control, or the LAC, wherein 20 Indian troops were martyred in a combat with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). What makes this more brutal is that no guns or explosives were used, reports suggest that the PLA attacked with stones, nail-studded sticks and iron rods and while the Indian media and army claims to have caused more fatalities on the opposition, there has been constant denial of any casualties by the Chinese who have also blatantly blamed us for the attack. The attack came in after the Chinese objected to Indian road construction in the Galwan River valley in late May.
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The Indian Response
Since this happened, there has been a clarion call across the country demanding a befitting retaliation and for the boycott of all Chinese products so as to hurt the Chinese economy, especially at a time when it is booming. This has resulted in people breaking their ‘Made in China’ gadgets, especially phones and televisions, without realising that the repercussions of such a movement like #BoycottChina would do more harm than good, and is practically very unfeasible for India as a whole to achieve for a whole lot of reasons, especially owing to the fact of us being neighbours and heavily involved in trade relations with China which would boil down to the consequence that in the course of hurting them and their economy, we would bleed ourselves out to death. The only reason for such a movement is avenging, and majorly the protest is for social media appeals and grabbing attention because such a boycott would be extremely hard on the Indians, and here’s why.
1) Impractical and Unfeasible
We need to realise that we are more dependent on China and their products than we think, and that it’s not just the companies or products that have Made in China printed on them that would come to cease. We need to understand that the modern industry and manufacturing process is very complex and interconnected around the globe, with every product comprising several parts each of which might be from different countries, and China is one such major manufacturer of parts. Hence, even though a product might not be labelled as Chinese, it would probably have parts from China and vice versa which essentially makes this whole concept of boycotting a country seem very silly and unreasonable, and put that logic on top of the fact of China has trade relations around the globe and the manufacturing prowess that it has, it appears unfeasible and impractical, and in reality almost impossible.
2) Consumers have to pay more
Another major concern as to why this #BoychottChina would be particularly difficult for Indians is the fact of how cheap the products made in China are, and how it becomes particularly difficult on the consumer to buy products if all of a sudden the price of everything around them begins to surge manifold, with little to no increase in income. Now, our Prime Minister has introduced the Atmanirbhar initiative to make India more self-reliant and maybe the initiative would go on to create quality and cheap replacements for Chinese products, but all of that would take time. Combine that to the surging rated of poverty and huge percentage of our population residing below the poverty line, you would come to realise that the pinch of such a boycott would not be on the privileged but on those for whom even the ‘cheap Chinese product’ is difficult to afford, and you’ll come to realise how ugly this boycott would be for us.
3) Imbalanced Trade Dependencies
It is no secret that India and China have had bilateral trade relations for a long time however, what is publicly unknown is just how much of this trade is skewed in China’s favour and how we need them, way more than they need us. Figures show that after the US, China is our second largest trade partner, accounting for almost 11% of our trade which roughly translates to 78 billion dollars of our economy whereas, India only accounts for 2% of China’s trade. Now, with those ground realities if we still decide to go into a boycott, our economy would be severely affected whereas the Chinese would feel so much as a pinch, which they can easily make up with alternate markets and again making the whole point of the boycott seem useless and masochistic, to say the least.
4) History is Witness
If nothing else can make you believe why this a bad idea and how it is extremely difficult for the average Indian, let’s take a history trip. These kind of boycotts of goods and products of a particular country for several reasons have happened in the past, and more often than not have had to be revoked with little to no change to the status quo, usually not attaining the objective that started the boycott. We need to realise why we began using and importing Chinese products at such a high volume and not products from other countries, or even those made in our country – because we preferred them, but more so because we needed them.
After studying the boycott of Danish goods by Muslim countries following the Muhammad Comic crisis in 2005/2006 and the Chinese boycott of Japanese goods in response to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Island conflict in 2012, economist Kilian Heilmann in The Effectiveness of International Trade Boycotts writes that “Product-level analysis shows that the impact is concentrated in consumer goods with only minor effects for intermediates and capital goods, being consistent with the notion that international trade boycotts are mainly carried out by consumers and not by firms. While the estimated disruption in imports from the boycotted country can be large, the fraction as total exports of the boycotted country is very low in both boycott cases (0.4% for Denmark and 0.8% for Japan). This suggests that even though an individual firm of the boycotted country might be hit hard, the overall effect on the export sector is negligible, rendering the punishment effect as mostly ineffective.”
5) Chinese Investment and Retaliation
Even if we choose to ignore all the impracticality associated with this boycott, and go on with #BoycottChina and cease all trade, we would also put the huge amount of Foreign Direct Investment provided by Chinese companies in Indian brands. The Chinese government might want to retaliate in a similar fashion which might result in the Chinese investment getting pulled out, affecting the already Indian companies who already were affected from the boycott because their sources of manufacture and cheap material was stopped. In times as trying as of the present, this might result in unemployment and loss of livelihood for many and again affecting us in a big way.
6) Status Quo and the Post Pandemic World
The Indian economy, and perhaps the economy of the entire world at large has been affected with the ongoing pandemic – there have been pay cuts, loss of jobs, companies closing down and start-ups crumbling and everything is hinting at one thing – a shattering economy and an impending recession. At a time like this when companies are trying to move jobs out to countries that have re-started their operations, boycotting a country and its products which account for over one-tenth of your trade, and companies originated from where dominate our markets and are looking to expand and provide more employment and boost to our economy in the days to come, is simple a silly move. Add to that the common sense that China being the first country that was affected is and would also be the first country to recover from the pandemic effects and start its operations and when that happens, all the brands would have no option but to continue and improve relations with China to remain profitable, making China the dominating country in the Post Pandemic World, and nobody wants to lock horns with that.
What is Important?
All the aforementioned reasons are enough for anyone to realise how self-destructive this ideology of boycott is to us, and how useless its execution would be. So now, the entire debate boils down to one question, What is more important? Revenge and retaliation, or what’s best for the country and its citizens, and no one in their right minds can choose revenge over the wellbeing of 138 Crore pandemic stricken Indian citizens.
Days to Come
Instead of throwing Chinese phones and TVs from our balconies to show support and sensationalising social media posts, what we should actually do is get through the tough times together with all countries alike, and when we get over the consequences of the economic backlash and the pandemic, we should take firm steps towards being ‘Atmanirbhar’, thereby reducing our mutual dependence.
In a world like ours, thwarting bilateral relations and boycotting products is not the way ahead, and therefore before acting-reacting to any stimuli we must realise how inter-linked the world has become, a global village in the truest sense.