Monday, 3 October, 2022
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Green tea to underpants, China’s grip on Indian lives goes beyond phone apps

There is no way Indians can live without most of the 8,000-odd stuff the country imports from China. So it's just better to wait for the tensions at LAC to simmer down.

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Dimple D’Souza’s WhatsApp profile picture now reads, “ITS OVER”. The video-streaming platform on which she became a star, BIGO LIVE, was among the 59 Chinese apps unceremoniously banned by the Narendra Modi government on Monday in an apparent response to the stand-off at the Line of Actual Control. The other popular apps on the list were TikTok, SHAREit — which had at least 200 million active users in India — and Weibo, which was back in news after its most high-profile Indian user, PM Modi, finally decided to quit it.

Citizens like Dimple were making a lot of money using these mostly Chinese apps and becoming famous.

“I would never make so much (money) with a 9-to-5 government job,” she had said last year.

But that’s just Dimple. There are so many like her in India who can’t do without Chinese goods, culture and overall Chinese influence in their daily lives. In fact, the whole Boycott China sentiment is mostly restricted to uninstalling Chinese apps or not buying new products with ‘Made in China’ label. But what about all the things we already use?

The hullaballoo surrounding Chinese stuff, given a fillip by the recent ban on 59 apps, is why it is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Also read: TikTok made rural India into DIY Eklavyas

The Chinese connect

Just think about the good old chowmein – one of the cornerstones of many budget-friendly food students and young Indians living away from home rely on. Not to mention how it’s one of the most prominent street foods for many people in India. Will you just stop eating it? How will you ditch the cute bags at Miniso? Or Uniqlo? 

What if you worked at a Chinese firm like Huawei or ByteDance, which owns apps like TikTok and Helo? A colleague once told me that employees with 1-2 years of experience get paid anywhere between Rs 70,000 to 80,000 a month – journalists with even 10 years of experience might not get paid that much, as would people in several other professions. Should those working in these firms just quit their job?

Also read: Why India’s growing economic reliance on China will be tough to break

The long list of imports

India imports a lot of stuff from China — more than 8,000 items. According to the latest available government data, imports from China are worth the most – Rs 4,40,101 crore. The United States is a distant second – Rs 2,36,933 crore.

The March 2020 report by the Director General of Foreign Trade says the three top categories of imports from China are: electronics components (9.15 per cent); telecom equipment (8.57 per cent); and computer hardware, peripherals (6.37 per cent) – basically, most of the gadgets that Indians use.

And Indians can’t get enough of Chinese consumer electronics – the OnePlus 8 Pro phone sold out in minutes, and models from Xiaomi’s first-ever laptop series in India, the Mi NoteBook 14, sold out fast as well. This happened even as India-China border tensions started rising in June, so I don’t think gadget lovers care or make the connection between using a Chinese product and being anti-national.

The iPhones, the AirPods, and the Apple Watches that you see middle and upper class Indians doting on are also mostly from China. Wonder what phone Home Minister Amit Shah or other ministers and political leaders use.

And no one can make the high-end iPhone like China does. The Wall Street Journal said in a report in March: “Apple is unlikely to shift any of the production of its most expensive iPhones to India later this year….The supply chain isn’t in place, and workers in India aren’t ready to produce the high-end, organic light-emitting diode models….”

Even the surveillance market in India is controlled by China. The video surveillance company Hikvision, which provides both hardware and software services, has a dominating presence in India.

And that’s just the gadgets. There’s more government data that paints a complex picture of the number of things India imports from China.

Also read: First Covid, now Ladakh. Indian students who fled from China worry their ‘future at stake’

All things Chinese

According to the Department of Commerce, there are more than 8,000 items imported from China. These include tooth brushes and tooth paste, pens and nibs, underpants and briefs, tomato seeds, dried onions, green tea, raisins, mango pulp, Kashmir goat hair, waste of human hair, yak tail… the list is long, and endlessly surprising.

In fact, if it wasn’t for former defence minister and Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s 2015 address at a seminar, many Indians wouldn’t have known that even statues of Hindu gods, such as Ganesha, are manufactured in China. Rounding out the list are illegal Chinese firecrackers and fancy dragons and Chinese calligraphy tattoos that many readily believe are the Chinese translation of their name or some wise quote.

Then there are students who want to learn Mandarin. A website named shows 38 colleges and universities teaching the language. Indians also want to study in China – as of last year, there are 23,000 Indian students in the neighbouring country, with about 21,000 of them studying medicine.

“China has, in recent years, become one of the preferred destinations of Indian students for pursuing higher studies”, the Indian embassy in Beijing says.

Also read: Only 4 out of 10 Indians won’t buy Chinese phone, finds survey conducted before Galwan clash

Boycott false notions

How do some Indians believe they will ever be able to come out of the Chinese grip? The two countries are so interlinked. China is the Ying to India’s Yang (Ying and Yang is a popular tattoo choice, by the way).

India must produce more goods at home, especially in sectors such as IT, aviation, and pharma. But that still won’t translate to India managing all by itself, without any Chinese product in people’s homes. Boycott China is a pipe dream.

The best thing Indians can hope is for the stand-off with China at the LAC to end soon and border tensions to simmer down so that things can go back to the way they were — uncomfortable neighbours trying to get along because they know how important they are in each other’s lives.

Views are personal.

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  1. One thing is sure no matter how good english one can write or speak that doesn’t mean that one has a mature mind to understand the problem. I realized this after reading comments. We don’t wanna discuss we don’t want to see truth the reality, it’s just like a 4 year naughty kid who, if once put a finger on something then it doesn’t matter how or why but you have to provide that to him.

  2. Modi himself said he has a Plus One relationship with China. It means China has power over him.

  3. I read all the comments above and was laughing out loudly. A lot of nationalistic jingoism and chest beating …………..accusing the author of this article of being paid and unpatriotic.

    I have seen articles of this nature on other reputed news platforms – like The Hindu : which has an equally good reputation as much as The Print does.

    Readers have to be sensitive to the fact that the author is pointing to the fact that India has a lot of ground work to do to get out of ‘doing business with China’ . This is what has to happen …………….but won’t happen overnight. The government has to have a medium to long term road map of building out the same commodities and industries : for which we are dependent on China. A lot of governments in the world have realized this and are coming up with such strategies to disengage economically from China.

    Perhaps its time for these governments to come together to have some common strategies to counter China economically. The trade deficit that India has with China is huge and so is the case for many other countries in the world. If this has to go – then the Atmanirbharta has to have a solid groundwork and road map that the government should set and have rolling.

  4. Yeah Sure. No Indian ever wore or bought underwear before the Chinese invented them agreed to export to India. Don’t forget that Malnutrition and infant mortality decreased courtesy Chinese Green Tea!!! Chinese bots writing for the print. LOL.

  5. The article gives a clear picture of how paid media can play around people mind and can push for their agenda….but the writter forgot that Indians are good at analysing and we have freedom of thought and expression 😂.. we know what’s best for us and our country we can build our nation without China’s garbage.

  6. Idea of boycott is to reduce dependance on Chinese products in critical areas like base ingredients for medicine manufacturing, power & telecom equipment etc. These are areas where India used to produce stuff locally ( or available elsewhere) but were not able to stand up to the Chinese for various reasons including state subsidy on the Chinese side. Electronics is one area where we may be hit but it is not insurmountable.

    China is a low cost assembler of items in most areas. The US, Japan, S Korea, Europe hold the technology rights, which implies the technology is available elsewhere.

    Are you aware that Uniqlo is a Japanese company and that Miniso pretends to be a Japanese company. The Chinese developed their own capabilities by putting obstacles to other countries. Are you aware that Google, Facebook are not allowed in China and because of this they have developed home grown applications.

    Stuff like plastic items and clothing is something which is being produced locally. I for one and many others are not dependent on Chinese underwear!!! as the author is probably..
    Employee in a chinese owned company, with 1 or 2 yrs experience drawing 70-80k p.m? Seriously what are you smoking. World over the Chinese employers are considered exploiters.
    So please don’t let ur anti-Modi bias show up. Try to look at the bigger picture.

    Would expect more mature and reasoned article from Print. You are slipping in your standards!!!

  7. The writer should have dwelled on what China will lose in terms of business with India.China will suffer a great loss if India starts boycotting their goods one after another.Indians have done it once with British during independence boycott movement. They should know that boycott is in Indiana blood. Chinese are taking a very big risk now.

  8. Somehow I Allways feel India is the only country that lacks unity. The main culprit is human greed.
    – Look at how US corporation sold its country to China with American corporation of greed…They let china steal their technologies knowingly or unknowingly.
    – The same way, yesterday one article from Chetan Bhagat that we should give China a chance to save their face, The author of this article too for the sake of money keeps publishing article like this as if China throws money and food to us for our survival. We don’t need their pants, electronics for survival.

  9. There is a way of doing things…. we want to reduce reliance on Chinese goods. Apps is a great start. Then should be easy import substitutes .. for example underwear , toothpaste Etc … things can not go back to normal. I am surprised at the defeatist attitude of the writer…. rolling over and surrendering is NOT AN OPTION

  10. In life before 2005, almost everything in daily consumption was made in India. Toothpaste, brush, underpants, pens pencils,tomato mango pulps , green tea etc etc etc. Even Nokia mobiles too. Believe me .. quality and product satisfaction was way better than todays times.

    We have only destroyed our jobs and gone poorer by importing what we were already producing.
    We shall we can and we must produce our essentials.

  11. This is Chinese propaganda published by The Print (which needs Chinese $$$ to survive).

  12. Ofcourse there is a way…..and it depends on the will of the people. This is exactly what China does. It hollows out the economy of a country and the minds of the people in it. The author and her thought “we can’t do without China” is a stark example of a hollowed out mind.

  13. I fail to understand the aim of this article, Regina.

    You should know that Indians can live without drinking Green tea and not wearing any underwear

    So chill…if shove comes to push we SHOULD be capable of pushing!!!!

  14. What the hell?
    Who is this writer??
    How much she got for this piece??
    India can not live without these 8000 imports from China, Yes, this is whst she wrote??
    Like before these 8000 imports, Indians were dying in droves for the want of these 8000 items??
    Come on. Do not be ridiculous.
    And stop passing of sponsored writing as news or analysis.

  15. This defeatist attitude. Why we do not have 4 wheelers or 2 wheelers from China. Why we do not have bath fittings, floor tiles, wood works from China. Why A/C, Fridges or other white goods China is not market domination. Ultimately countries do not compete but companies compete. In the industry segments where companies have decided to invest in product improvement and innovation we are competing. But other segments we are loosing out.
    With little nudge and incentive from Government and our companies can definitely compete. We only need to have focused approach.

  16. So stupid, make India self reliant, not to depend on chine out of sheer laziness, an d lost opportunities for entrepreneurs

  17. This only hullabullao .Raising emotions without best facilities to soldiers at front can,understand that these are just mere slogans . Questions intelligence and leadership failure led to death of 20 odd jawans.

  18. On a larger picture, I doubt the vocalists for the Boycott movement expect a 100% Boycott or even a big significant one that could actually put pressure. The idea is to appease the Indians to shift to alternatives, if possible to reduce this imprint that runs deep into the Indian society and has been limiting the Indian politics and remains a source of mockery to a “self-reliant India” dream. The goal is to motivate the citizens to educate themselves on various companies that either have Chinese origins or manufacture their goods in China. Boycott China dream is a pipedream in a short term, but a significant reducation in dependence on a viable neighbour that unethically enjoys too much of a leverage in Indian trade through questionable practices over a long term is possible.

  19. How much money you have taken to write these stuff from Chinese govt. or from the people on his behalf.

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