There is a general consensus in India that the
economic links between India and China
need to be reduced. This is because there is the danger of creating a dangerous dependence that may lead to being politically dominated and becoming a ‘subsidiary’ nation of the new ‘superpower’. This is not a new sentiment, but has presently become aggravated by the Chinese adventurism on the border. There are calls for all kinds of boycotts, even extending to targeting individual Chinese by denying them entry into hotels, etc., which could be considered racist and invite allegations of human rights abuse. It must not be forgotten that a large number of Indians live and work in China. Some states have scuttled projects that have the involvement of Chinese companies. Such knee-jerk reactions are not going to serve the desired purpose, because there is bound to be a lot of collateral damage to Indians.
Government sponsored moves will face a lot of difficulties because of international agreements and treaties. The best way to deal with it is by changing the consumer culture. The Indian consumers (which include industries that use Chinese raw materials and components) need to gradually wean themselves off their dependence on these imports. It is easy to do in the case of upmarket products that can be easily substituted by those from competing nations like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and others. It may cost a bit more but will be compensated by the fact that they are of better quality and definitely will last longer.
The difficult part will be to cut down on the cheap products that have flooded the market at the street level and provide alternatives to the poor that have, traditionally, not been available to them. Children’s toys, household items, decoration pieces, simple gadgets and so on have made a special place for themselves. Somehow, Indian Industry has lacked the innovativeness and marketing smarts to address this section of society. If such products are not substituted, it will amount to a cumulative loss to the people, so allowing access to them is advantageous to Indians. By preferring this low level of production and boycotting the more expensive kind, it will also impact upon the kind of industrial activity underway in China. If joined in this by other countries, it will mean encouraging small margin, high volume activity in China, affecting overall income. Best of all, China cannot even complain about it because it will have been done by consumers, whose right to choose cannot be denied. It will be a good and telling beginning to the longer term goal of curbing that nation’s economic clout, which it is cynically using for its neo-imperialist goals.