Following India’s bloodiest clash with imperialist China in 45 years, there seems to be no dearth of jingoistic postures from saffron centres, as even Chinese intrusion in to India’s territory is becoming self-evident now. As part of this, a hectic campaign is in full swing for an economic retaliation against China mainly by boycotting Chinese products. For instance, the pro-RSS Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), has called for an outright boycott of 450 broad categories of imported Chinese items which include 3500 products comprising a whole range of cosmetics, bags, toys, furniture, footwear, watches, etc. so as to reduce their imports by $13 billion or Rs. I lakh crore by December 2021, whereas the value of India’s import from China approximately equals to the staggering figure of around $70 billion or Rs. 525000 crore in 2019-20. However, at the outset, it may be stated that such moves are mainly rhetorical since India’s dependence on and integration with imperialist China in the economic field (of course with its political ramifications) is so complex and deep-rooted that in the immediate future, despite the much trumpeted “Make in India”, and the latest “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, it will be well-nigh impossible for India to resort to a ban on Chinese investments and products.
China’s Transformation as the Largest Imperialist Economy
To unravel this, a brief note on China’s emergence as an imperialist power with its position today as world’s leading capital and commodity exporter would be in order. No doubt, China’s experience of breaking the imperialist hierarchy inherited from the colonial world order is an exceptional and unique phenomenon. China’s political trajectory as a socialist country for more than a quarter century after WW II, its capitalist restoration following seizure of power by bureaucratic bourgeoisie in the late 1970s and its eventual transformation as an imperialist power are all complex processes that require in-depth analysis and, therefore, is outside the scope of this note. Since the beginning of the 1980s, with its catchword of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the bureaucratic state capitalism in China began its close integration with private sector orienting state-owned banks toward liberally supporting private businesses. Since the 1990s, there took place a relative shift in this privatisation strategy with more emphasis on FDI inflows that rushed in to take advantage of China’s inexhaustible supply of cheap labour. As the cheapest source of production and as an active participant in the neoliberal international division of labour, this enabled China to increasingly integrate itself with global finance capital. In conformity with the logic of capital accumulation, lucrative real estate, financial markets and other money spinning businesses also flourished as a concomitant. Party-led bureaucratic state was transformed into an apparatus committed to protect the interests of corporate capital at the expense of workers, peasants and toiling people. As estimated by All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, the share of private sector in Chinese GDP today is more than 60 percent. As of 2018, the entire private sector including both domestic and foreign accounted for70 percent of technological innovation, 80 percent (340 million) of the total employment (783 million) and 90 percent of all Chinese exports.
The bureaucratic state monopoly capitalism of China through various joint ventures between state-owned enterprises and foreign corporate capital went on adapting itself to the most modern and state-of-the-art technologies and in the process succeeded in building up a number of Chinese monopolies exporting capital to almost a hundred countries by the turn of the 21st century and to more than 125 countries as of now. Sino-US bilateral trade during the four decades following capitalist restoration in China had grown by 150 times —quite unprecedented in recorded history — from $4 billion in 1979 to around $600 billion in 2019. With an average annual GDP growth rate of 10 percent since mid-1980s, China rose to the position of the second largest imperialist power when the 2008 world imperialist crisis erupted. Since then, though the growth rate has gone down, according to World Bank’s purchasing power parity estimates, by 2019 China became world’s largest economy with a GDP of around $27 trillion relegating the US to the second position with around $21 trillion. As its manifestation, in all other economic indicators including global trade volume, China had already surpassed the US. And by leading several organisations, groupings and initiatives such as Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), BRICS including New Development Bank (NDB), etc., China is already in an enviable position, as the US hold over many post war neo-colonial institutions such as UN and its Specialised Agencies are rapidly loosening. And in tandem with its growing imperialist political-economic clout, China’s military budget had steadily grown from around $14 billion in 2000 to more than $260 billion in 2019, almost four times that of India!
This transformation has its domestic repercussions. The so called “iron rice bowl” of socialism that ensured food, housing health, education and employment for all has been demolished. All the evils of ‘uneven development’ associated with capitalism and market economy are on the ascendance. Destruction of ‘self-reliant’ and ‘self-sufficient’ communes has led to one of the biggest internal migrations in history that resulted in tens of millions of displaced landless peasants becoming unemployed while a section of them who could migrate to urban centres and special economic zones in coastal areas were subjected to extreme forms of super-exploitation jointly by both foreign capital and emerging Chinese monopolies. In 1980, urban dwelling population was just 20 percent; it reached almost 50 percent in the first decade of the 21st century, a trend that gathered further momentum since then. China’s urbanisation, like its whole course of development, is unprecedented. According to latest Demographia’s World Urban Areas Report, there are now 113 urban centres in China that surpass the one million population threshold. In comparison, only North America and the European Union combined have 114 urban areas that surpass one million people. At the same time, large sections of the population still remain in the country-side at subsistence level. Since a social safety net composed of cost-indexed wages, health care and pensions is totally lacking outside the public sector employment, tens of millions of workers are left without access to welfare benefits or minimum standard of living. Migrant workers in construction sites and unorganised sectors live and work in desperate conditions and are paid below normal rates. As a reflection of the extreme misery and destitution suffered by people, all evils of capitalism such as poverty, price rise, corruption, sex trade, child-begging, homelessness and cultural degradation have also become rampant. And the emergence of a ‘deep state’ and political oppression have now become a corollary of the inevitable social tensions arising from the rigorous dismantling of even the remnants of erstwhile socialist achievements.
The concomitant political-ideological dimensions of this economic transformation found its first formal expression in the 16th Party Congress of Communist party of China (CPC) held in 2002 that formally announced extension of party membership to CEOs of corporate companies. Its outcome was well-reflected in the National People’s Congress (NPC) held in 2018 when large number of the delegates elected were from corporate CEOs and super-rich financial elite and wealthy individuals along with the party bureaucrats who have been the sole beneficiaries of the four decades of capitalist restoration. For instance, almost half of the more than 300 Chinese global billionaires (3 times that in India and second only to the US in 2018) whose wealth has appreciated by around 20 percent a year had their berth in higher echelons of CPC. Overall proportion of millionaires and billionaires in party bureaucracy is relatively high compared with their membership in CPC composed of 89 million out of a total population of almost 1400 million. According to China Rich List released by Hurun, the total wealth held by the top 70 delegates to the 2018 NPC was larger than that with the members of the entire US Congress! China’s Gini coefficient estimated at 0.465, - a statistical measure of inequality in which 0 indicates perfect equality and 1 depicts a situation where all incomes go to one person - is one of the highest in the world. In view of corroborative evidences coming from various other sources, today it is difficult to ignore such data as mere guesstimates associated with usual West-sponsored Sinophobia.
As a matter of fact, the reunification of Hong Kong in 1997 and Macao in 1999, both being nerve centres of global finance, trade and speculation, followed by China’s formal entry in 2001 into WTO, often characterised as the third neo-colonial pillar (the other two being IMF and World Bank) were milestones that speeded up its integration with imperialist market and finance capital. As world’s low-cost production base, this integration enabled China to capture substantial share of commodity markets not only in Afro-Asian-Latin American dependent countries, but even in US, its main imperialist rival for world hegemony. At the same time, this Chinese integration with global market has coincided with the emergence of fast moving ‘frontier’ or new generation technologies such as, digitisation, blockchain, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, robotisation, etc. which were practically insignificant in the 20th century. Closely integrated with the bureaucratic state, many Chinese companies became pioneers in economic innovation and application of these technologies to production at a maddening speed. Among them Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent (popularly known as BAT) and Huawei (pioneer in ‘5G revolution’) have now become world leaders in digitisation, the fast-moving frontier technology of the 21st century, and even capable of successfully challenging US-based “Silicon Six” (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Microsoft). For instance, though five years younger than Amazon, the biggest American e-commerce giant, in terms of volume of trade, Alibaba has already eclipsed the former and is now the leading cloud-provider besides being world’s biggest e-commerce company. And backed by the breakthroughs in digital technology, China is also pioneering a digital currency alternative to the hegemony of US dollar in international transactions.
A crucial aspect to be underlined in this context is that mechanical approach to class/property relations and western notions of corporate governance do not fit in with the private sector in China. Chinese bureaucrats have learned lessons from Soviet Union’s eventual disintegration on account of private corporate sector finally usurping power and taking over the regime. As such, Chinese bureaucratic bourgeoisie’s unleashing of privatisation and corporatisation and encouragement to private businesses for generating economic growth, propelling investment and exports, etc., always go hand in hand with party bureaucracy’s strict supervision over the entire process. Party bodies and ‘party cells’ function in every private business, including even foreign enterprises. This intervention is intended to ensure economic growth strictly avoiding the plausible danger arising from any organised alternative to centres of political power.
It also ensures the regime’s close nexus with corporate capital together with constant surveillance over their dealings. According to a 2018 report, around 95 percent of the private enterprises in China had or in the process of having party cells/units in them. And the presence of the appropriate party representative in board meetings of companies is the accepted norm and corporate CEOs holding ‘Communist party’ membership is the general rule.
For instance, Jack Ma of Alibaba, global face of Chinese monopoly capital and corporate philanthropy has been a party member since 1980s, though his membership was openly declared only in 2018. Even Walmart, world’s biggest US-based retail MNC (that at one time depended on China for around 70-80 percent of its merchandise) which is notorious for not allowing unions in its US stores, had party cells in its companies in China. To be precise, driving corporate wealth accumulation and buttressing the bureaucratic state regime are two sides of China’s private sector that is accomplishing the miraculous “success story” of Chinese imperialism.
Alarming Chinese Penetration to Indian Market
In the background briefly stated above, it may be stated that India’s transformation as a market for Chinese products as well as a destination for investments from China is primarily a 21st century phenomenon intertwined with latter’s emergence as the workshop of the world under neo-liberal globalisation. On account of the 1962 Sino-Indian war and disputes such as the 1967 Chola incident, 1975 showdown when Sikkim became a state of India, and the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish, both diplomatic and economic ties between India and China had not at all been enthusiastic during the 20th century. Obviously, it was China’s formal entry into WTO in 2001 that enabled it to integrate herself with other countries based on her ‘comparative advantage’ that prompted China to explore neighbouring India’s vast market. Consequently, Chinese premier Zhu Rongji’s2001 India visit was duly reciprocated by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to China in 2003. The period that followed witnessed regular visits by both Indian and Chinese delegations for pursuing and signing innumerable bilateral investment and trade deals.
As a result, since 2000, trade between China and India has grown nearly twice as fast as each country’s trade with the rest of the world. In 2008 itself, surpassing US, China became India’s largest trade partner. Meanwhile, bilateral trade between China and India shot up from $2 billion in 2000-01 to $65 billion in 2013-14. Trade (including exports and imports) between China and India during this period was growing at nearly three times the pace of US-China trade. Modi’s tenure since 2014 saw a further boost to trade such that by 2017-18 India’s trade volume with China again rose to $89.76 billion excluding that with Hong Kong ($34 billion). In 2018-19, though bilateral trade marginally declined to $87.07, in that year, India’s trade deficit with China was $53.57 billion (around Rs. 401700 crore) as India’s imports from China were worth US$ 70.32 billion and exports to China were only US$ 16.75 billion. Even today there is little change in India’s huge trade deficit with China. As such, India’s position in India-China bilateral trade is highly unfavourable for India.
According to IMF estimates (based on 2019 data), while China’s exports to and imports from India respectively came to 3 percent and 0.9 percent of its total exports and imports, the corresponding proportion for India was 5.1 percent and 13.7 percent (respective figures for 2020 February were5.33 percent and 14.09 percent). Revealingly, according to 2020 February data, in percentage terms, India’s imports from US at 7.58 percent of its total imports amount to only half of that from China. This depicts India’s relatively high dependence on China than US with whom India has even a strategic military relationship as a junior partner. An item-wise analysis of Indian imports from China also reveals the essence and gravity of this economic dependence. For instance, 76.3 percent of all antibiotics and pharmaceutical products imported today by India is from China. This dependence of India on China is 84 percent for vehicle accessories, 68 percent for nitrogen compounds, 64 percent for diodes and transistors, 63 percent for iron & steel pipes and tubes, 58 percent for electric accumulators, 55 percent for LCD/LED/OLED panels for TVs, 52 percent of insecticides and pesticides, 46 percent of data processing machines, ACs and Fans and so on for several other items. A significant aspect connected with these imports by India is that they also comprise critical raw materials and intermediate items for production and export to other markets. To put it differently, while India depends heavily on imports from China, the latter has no such dependence on India. Hence an economic boycott of China, as stated at the outset, is only of rhetorical value and not at all feasible in the immediate future, especially at a time when India’s growth rate is projected to shrink by 5 percent during the fiscal year 2020-21. And many Indian auto, pharma and electronic companies that heavily depend on Chinese supplies have already raised alarm bells against such a move in the absence of developing reliable alternatives. More revealingly, even US companies in India that relies on raw-materials from China have conveyed their anxiety on carrying on production in view of the reported move to ban Chinese imports.
How “Make in India” Became “Made in China”
From the very beginning, due to its inherent far-right economic orientation, RSS’ servility to imperialist masters, to Britain during the colonial period and then to US in the post-war neo-colonial phase is not at all a debatable issue. Hence, the RSS-led Modi regime’s allegiance to US imperialism is expected to be its normal behaviour. However, though credited with the ultra-rightist ‘Gujarat model’ of privatisation/ corporatisation during his long tenure as chief minister of Gujarat, on account of US visa denial to him following the Gujarat pogrom, Modi could not enter US for many years. Probably, this might have prompted him to cultivate his personal relationship with Chinese rulers by visiting China four times as chief minister of Gujarat, the only chief minister from India doing so, and again visiting China five times during 2015-18 as prime minister of India.
Modi’s five-day China visit in November 2011 was historic as it was against Manmohan government’s stand of not permitting him to travel to China. Modi went to China via Hong Kong and, according to reports, to the great embarrassment of the Indian ambassador, landed up at the Indian embassy in Beijing and during his visit met many Chinese companies willing to invest in Gujarat. This was followed by Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit in 2013, and by 2014, could arrive at a deal on Chinese investments worth Rs. 9000 crore in the state. Apart from many Chinese firms such as Great Wall Motors Company Ltd and Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation agreeing to set up mega vehicle manufacturing plants in the State, of particular importance was regarding the strategic Chinese investment in Mudra port owned by Adani. While ports like Mumbai and Tuticorin were not allowed to seek Chinese investment on account of security concerns, China’s investment in Mudra port remained an exception. In fact, the large-scale rolling-out of red carpet for Chinese investments in Gujarat was despite objections raised by the then UPA government at the centre. And as part of making Gujarat a Chinese investment hot-spot, Modi, in fact, went to the extent of initiating even Mandarin (China’s official language) coaching institutes and courses in universities in Gujarat.
No doubt, this “Gujarat-Cheeni Bhai Bhai” process accelerated once Modi became prime minister in 2014, and on his election Chinese media continued to eulogise the ‘Gujarat model’ followed by the 2014 visit of Chinese president Xi to Ahmadabad leading to a surge in Chinese investments in Gujarat and conversion of India as a dumping ground for Chinese exports. By the time of 2019 Vibrant Gujarat Summit, the committed investment by firms from China including Huawei were to the tune of Rs. 17000 crore in addition to proposals for a Rs. 21400 crore investment led by the Chinese solar giant East Hope Group in Dholera Special Investment Region along with an Adani-owned power plant at Godda in Jharkhand. This was over and above the June 2017 Rs. 2250 crore deal that Adani had with Chinese firms. Of course, this Chinese connection had other dimensions too. As per a document, revealed through Freedom Information (www.theguardian.com/ environment/February 2018; www.ft.com), Adani, Modi’s closest friend even sought Australian ministers’ help to write to a Chinese government agency vouching the controversial Carmichael coalmine project in Australia.
Meanwhile, after his ascendance as prime minister, the immediate initiative that Modi undertook was a pan-India extrapolation, this far-right ‘Gujarat model’ as prelude to the rapid transition from ‘Manmohanomics’ to ‘Modinomics’. At the same time, in conformity with RSS’ historical allegiance to US imperialism, even while maintaining his opportunistic Chinese link and camaraderie with Xi in relation to the economy, during the past six years Modi has strengthened India’s position as a strategic junior partner of US in latter’s geo-political contradictions with China by signing many military-to-military partnerships with Washington. Meanwhile, after a thorough overhauling of the last vestiges of Nehruvian state-led development paradigm including the abolition of the 64-year old Planning Commission, thereby transforming the state as a corporate-facilitator, Modi put forward the attractive formulation “Make in India” on September 25, 2014, with much fanfare. Its objective was to transform India as world’s “sweatshop” emulating the Chinese experience as a low-cost workshop of the world. The aim was to project India before the West as an alternative cheap-labour manufacturing hub by improving “ease of doing business”, removal of all barriers to the free entry and exit of foreign capital and a series of investor-friendly measures such as aggressive liberalisation of labour, tax and environmental laws for unfettered plunder of labour and nature by MNCs and their junior Indian partners. Coupled with Modi’s high-profile tours to neoliberal centres, the “Make in India” prognosis, amidst the pseudo-nationalism of the ruling regime, laid down the roadmap for India’s dependence on international capital at an alarming pace.
Obviously, even from a neoliberal perspective, the “Make in India” program, unlike the Chinese experience of making use of western capital in the initial phase of its capitalist transformation until the turn of the 21st century, was totally devoid of any domestic efforts to boost productivity and competitiveness. By utilising the ‘red-carpet for investors’, foreign companies wasted no time to enter the country and gobble-up precious natural and mineral resources and strategic public assets and critical infrastructure overheads through the “public-private-partnership” (PPP) route. And in accordance with the logic of corporatisation today, instead of developing employment-oriented productive spheres, capital that rushed in from the West, mainly from US with relatively obsolete manufacturing technologies, was only interested in ballooning the money-spinning speculative sectors thereby keeping up the bullish trend in the stock market and sky-rocketing of the Sensex. Accordingly, many concessions extended to US MNCs under pressure from Trump administration have led to a ‘financialisation-stagnation trap’ instead of adding up to real production, and this has been a contributory factor for unprecedented unemployment and economic downturn in India since 2014.
It was in this context that China, as the leading imperialist economy with up-to-date production technologies and whose manufacturing contributes around 30 percent to GDP (for US the corresponding share is only 11 percent) has been in a better position to take advantage of Modi’s “Make India”. The background for this was already there through Modi’s friendship with Chinese president Xi including his meeting with the latter as many as on 18 occasions! Cheaper and more efficient technology relative to that of the West has been a comparative advantage for China for grabbing projects in India. Probably, an interesting example in this regard is that of Indian Army’s 2017 contract with Beijing Protech New Material Science Company Ltd for the import of material fabric and boron carbon white powder essential for manufacturing bullet proof jackets (thepolicytimes.com). Earlier these raw material/ intermediate goods were imported from the US and Netherlands; but the shift was necessitated as the Chinese imports were 60-70 percent cheaper and the decision was taken following a series of firing tests to check quality in tune with the standardisation laid by Bureau of Indian Standards. When the usual security question regarding this Chinese deal came up, V K Saraswat, NITI Aayog member and former DRDO chief explained the government’s ‘helplessness’ thus: “It is a market force; we cannot do much about this. The only thing is if we find that the bulletproof jackets produced by the Chinese material are not up to the mark, then we will have to say, as of now there is no such reports.”Though a report on China printing Indian currency along with that of Brazil, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka (China is the only country that can perform the intaglio style of printing simultaneously on both sides of a banknote using a Colour Dance to improve note’s security) was there in the media (Deccan Chronicle, April 14, 2018), an official on condition of anonymity later denied it.
It is this “law of market” dictating neoliberal globalisation today that ultimately became decisive in unravelling ‘Make in India’ as ‘Made in China’. Despite Modi regime’s intensified military integration with US transforming India as former’s strategic base for its Indo-Pacific machinations directed against China, the US obsolescence in many badly needed technologies coupled with their high cost enabled China to effectively displace the US from many investment spheres. Accordingly, total Chinese investments in India rose from $1.6 billion (Rs.12000 crore) in 2014 to $8 billion (Rs. 60000 crore) in the beginning of 2020. If the planned or proposed investment is also added to this, the figure will be more than $26 billion (nearly Rs. 2 lakh crore; on the other hand, cumulative Indian investment as of now is estimated only at Rs.7000 crore). However, according to many observers, a major part of Chinese capital investment is often “rerouted”, that is from third country sources such as Singapore, which is technically the largest source of foreign investment for India today. During the UPA rule, Mauritius had been India’s biggest FDI source, which was mainly camouflaged US capital export to India (for taking advantage of the tax-avoidance treaty between India and Mauritius). Now under Modi regime, Singapore is replacing Mauritius as the biggest capital exporter to India may also be read along with India’s growing economic dependence on China. However, reliable data on this aspect are few and far between.
Now, coming to the concrete instance of Chinese investment with its thrust in the technology sector, the picture is too complex. In 2008 itself, India (Bangalore) with 1000 employees was the biggest foreign destination for the Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies Company Ltd, world leader of 5G which (together with AI) is envisaged as the most strategic frontier technology. It is already reported to have carried out 5G trials in India much against the advice of Trump administration, though its future course of action in the wake of border dispute is uncertain. After Modi coming to power, as estimated by the Gateway House, leading Chinese tech MNCs have put an estimated $4 billion (Rs. 30000 crore) in Indian start-ups. Within five years of Modi rule, by March 2020, 18 of India’s 30 unicorns (unicorn is a start-up company valued at over $1 billion) are Chinese funded. Other 92 start-ups with less investments are also funded by Chinese companies.
Chinese software companies like Alibaba, Bytedance, Tencent, Huawei, ZTE, mobile companies like, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Oneplus, Coolpad, Motorola, LeEco, Lenovo, Meizu, Honor, Gionee, Gfive, Hair, TCL, and automobile giants such as Volvo, SAIC, Nippon, Shanghai Electric, Beijing Automotive, WISCO, China Dongfang, have already established there deep roots in India. Didi, Chunxing, Shunwei Capital, Fosun Capital, China-Eurasia Economic Cooperation Fund are well-known Chinese MNCs who have substantial investments in some of the important Indian start-ups such as Paytm, Ola, Snapdeal, Swiggy, Flipkart, MyDermacy, Hike Messenger, IBIBO and Make My Trip, Dream 11, Byju’s App, BigBasket,Delhivery, Oyo, PolicyBazzar, Quikr, Rivigo, Uddan, Zomato, etc. TikTok, the Chinese video app, has 200 million Indian subscribers and has overtaken the US-based YouTube in India. Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance are in the process of overtaking the US giants Facebook, Amazon and Google in India. Chinese smartphones like Oppo and Xiaomi controls around 72 percent of Indian smartphone market leaving South Korean Samsung and American Apple far behind; and four out of the five top mobile phones in India today are Chinese brands. And unlike comparable investments from other imperialist powers, since Chinese investments are in fast moving frontier technology areas having complex linkages, their impact is considered to be disproportionate to the apparent size of such investments. In this situation, it is left to readers to ponder over whether Indians today can afford to boycott Chinese products.
Of course, the aforesaid ‘Chinese connection’ with “Make in India” is more explicit with respect to former’s domination in frontier technologies including digitisation. For instance, an important component of “Make in India” has been “Digital India” that too launched by Modi on 1 July 2015. But the last five years’ history of digitising India including Modi’s experiments with digital transactions amply reveals India’s abject dependence on China for the essential digital tools and digital infrastructures required for them. Even the ArogyaSetu App, India’s contact-tracing app to combat COVID-19, is modelled after the ‘authoritarian’ Health Code App of China. According to an MIT Technology Review, among 19 countries that designed similar apps, India belong to the category of the three countries, other two being China and Turkey, where the app poses greatest risks for user privacy. Even though India still depends on the US technology giants for a major portion of the digital software needed, Chinese monopolistic hold over the required digital hardware is explicit. A typical example is that relating to the swiping machines or PoS terminals which are indispensable for the ongoing digital payments/cashless transactions taken up by the regime as its flagship program.
In this regard, almost the entire PoS machines (around 3500000) in India today were made in China by two companies, Veriphone and Ingenica and directly exported to India. According to data published by an import tracking website Zauba.com, Ambani, India’s largest corporate player and very close to Modi together with Adani, have imported 435000 new 4G SIM cards from China. It is often said that through Jio, Ambani is trying to replicate the “Alibaba model” in India. Still there is no dearth of calls for boycott of Chinese products from far-right saffron quarters!
Along with this, Chinese capital’s penetration in many sectors of industry and engineering including solar power generation equipment, chemicals, aluminium, animal feed, automobile, metallurgy, construction, rail and port construction, etc. is regularly taking place. In the banking sector too, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) already has a series of moves in India.
Recently, PBOC has increased its stake in Housing Development Finance Corp. Ltd (HDFC) in India. Even the 600ft high Patel statue, Modi’s towering tribute to Patel called “Statue of Unity” constructed at a cost of Rs. 2990 crore, is not free from the stamp of China. Announced in 2010 when Modi was Gujarat chief minister, but completed after his ascendance to prime ministership, the entire 6500 bronze panels weighing 1700 metric tons were cast in Jiangxi Tongquing Metal Handicrafts Co. Ltd, as India lacks such facilities.
By Way of a Conclusion
The above is only a bird’s eye view on India’s dependence on China and other imperialist powers for the emerging technologies. No doubt, the pitiable Indian situation is not an overnight development. When the country was opened up for globalisation a quarter century ago, its industrial and manufacturing system was characterised by extremely low productivity mainly on account of technological obsolescence. The crony capitalism-corporate-politician-bureaucrat nexus- oriented towards quick-yielding money spinning businesses and speculation that flourished since then had little interest in applying science and technology to production appropriate to the country. While India is world’s second largest smartphone market, it is too pitiable that the country is still incapable of manufacturing any of the phones itself. While R&D expenditure in imperialist countries is between 2.5 and 2.75 percent of GDP, the same in India is still less than one percent on an average. Here too, China is the global leader with almost 20 percent of total world R&D expenditure as of now. In accordance with its geopolitical global ambitions, the 2020 National People’s Congress of China has launched the “Made in China 2025” and “China Standards 2035” initiatives with an astounding $1.4 trillion (approximately 70 percent of India’s current GDP) public spending program to further shore up its domination in industry and frontier technologies.
On the other hand, India’s PSUs which were capable to undertake R&D even in advanced semiconductors were systematically dismantled or undermined, while the crony capitalists who made fabulous wealth appropriation through speculative corporatisation have little interest either in heavy industries or in technology development. Meanwhile, under the post-truth prognoses of “Make in India” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, the Indian private corporate sector is encouraged for technology imports through foreign collaborations and joint ventures. And the MNCs from China, US, Japan and other countries that are rushing in under the liberalised atmosphere in IT, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals (and revealingly not in heavy industries) and in similar other areas are not all willing for technology transfer or up-gradation here. COVID-19 has once again underlined that no country can move towards self-reliance without substantial investments in public health, public education and research and development. For a country of India’s size and diversities, there is no model that can be copied from abroad. Dependence on private corporate sector, financing from external sources, and offshore manufacturing bases at the cost of planned government intervention with appropriate people’s participation is becoming suicidal for India. The ongoing border dispute with imperialist China has exposed this vulnerability of India more than ever, and it is high time on the part of all progressive democratic forces to seriously think over a viable political alternative to this deplorable situation.