Experience of Chinese Technologies and Products for the Industries of Eastern India

Amitava Banik, Research Intern, ICS

Source: Indian Industry Plus

China’s progress in manufacturing

China is considered as the world’s manufacturing powerhouse. China had been successful in building infrastructure supporting world corporations to make their products in the country. Over time, the world’s leading companies have shifted their manufacturing assembly lines to China. Also, the home-grown manufacturing industry in China is itself quite big. China is successful in manufacturing and exporting a whole range of products from simple electronics to complex machineries.

According to Yue and Evenett (2010), China attracted huge FDIs between 1979 to 2007 of which 70 per cent went to the manufacturing industry. The concentration and development of the global value chains of all industries, including the high-tech industry, on the eastern coast of China have boosted the country’s exports, resulting in the “Made in China” phenomenon.

Multinational corporations such as Siemens have set up facilities for assembly and manufacturing of many of its products including high-end medical equipments such as CT Scanners for their South Asian market in China, taking advantage of low manpower cost and good connectivity networks. A world-renowned instrumentation company such as Yokogawa of Japan, manufactures and exports their meters and oscilloscopes from China. The Chinese are considered to be good with reverse engineering capabilities, which have helped grow a lot of domestic manufacturers across industrial sectors.

China’s market for capital goods and spares in Eastern India

The Chinese machineries and capital items occupy the top of India’s list of imports from China valued at US$ 19,103(2019-20). Unlike China, the global multinationals are more focused on making India a marketing hub for catering to the huge domestic market of India and South Asia rather than India being a global manufacturing destination. Thus, India’s manufacturing capacity for capital goods like other high technology products is low.

In Eastern India, where there is dearth of both capital and new industries, China has successfully filled the vacuum to some extent with its cheaper and competitive products and industrial solutions. According to a survey conducted by the author, traders and businessmen are of the view that there could be further enhancement of Chinese market in this part of the country if the Chinese companies could set up manufacturing and assembly lines for their products – both capital goods and spares in Eastern India. China has made considerable inroads into the industrial market in Eastern India both for high value capital goods as well as low value tools and spares. However, there is dearth of specific data on import of capital goods and spares parts from China by the industries of Eastern India, so this assumption is based on practical experience and field survey as illustrated in Table 1. According to some of the users interviewed from these industries, the satisfaction level of the industrial customers and the value for money proposition is good for Chinese products and their installations. The traders interviewed are of the opinion that easy loan and financial credit facilities are available for buying Chinese machineries. Companies such as Donfang Electric Corporation doing power projects have also set up offices in Kolkata to oversee their projects, marketing, and customer services, etc. The traders are vocal about dealing with China’s ease of doing business. According to them, it is easy to get dealership of Chinese companies and start doing business with them, and Chinese manufacturers are also prompt in responding to trade or dealership enquiries.

Eastern India is primarily a mineral rich belt of India producing steel, ferroalloys, power, etc. Earlier, most of the installations in old plants had been of Russian, US or German technology, but now most of the plants, particularly those built on private investments are using Chinese technologies (Refer Table 1). Even in many of the tenders called by the central and state PSUs*, Chinese companies are the lowest bidders and many of them are ordering Chinese products.

Just like industrial installations of capital goods in Eastern India, Chinese manufacturers have made considerable penetration into the market for low-end manufactured products, tools and spares. The trading communities in Kolkata and other places import Chinese products at lower price and sell them in the market at a premium and make considerable fortune. The result of the survey of a leading bearing trader in Kolkata is put up in Table 2.

Present Situation

The military standoff situation like the recent Galwan Valley clashes and its aftermath creates anxiety among the trading and industrial community, which affect business sentiments. As the Chinese influence is currently highly embedded in Indian economy, trade and commerce, complete decoupling may be expensive for India especially in the present Covid-19 pandemic scenario. However, though decoupling is tough, at the same time it is not possible to entirely ignore border and security issues in the face of economic or business considerations. Thus, India needs to look at economic growth with leverage on China.


Chinese economy (about US$ 14 trillion) is much bigger than that of India (about US$ 3 trillion). India is home to 1.3 billion people (17 per cent of world population) but has only 3-4 per cent of the world GDP. Although the two countries try to co-operate on several international forums such as WTO, BRICS, G20 etc., strategic rivalry is visible. This shows that while there is an understanding on many common matters of concern, the two economic giants sharing a common boundary and geopolitical and historical landscape are often at loggerheads on issues of diverging interests, geopolitical and economic ambitions.

In view of the evolving world order during the pandemic, several multinational companies are looking to relocate their manufacturing facilities out of China. It may be an opportunity for India to pitch in and fill the void by offering incentives to these corporations as well as to Indian corporates for setting up more manufacturing facilities in east and northeastern parts of India, and other untapped industrial belts. This may also help in developing these deprived regions as new industrial pockets. If this happens, it would lead to overall growth and development of these regions and augment the value chains for the industries.

Party Influence in Chinese Economy

 Arnav Batra, Research Intern, ICS

China has a unique role in the world economy, with it being one of the most attractive places to do business which is clearly indicated by its status as the world’s largest exporter, the second largest recipient of FDI and the second largest consumer market. On the other hand, compared to other economies that seek to attract foreign investment, the economic setup for conducting business is very different, as China’s economic system is called a ‘socialist market economy’ to which some academics have referred to as ‘state capitalism’ or even just an unstable form of capitalism. The rise of Chinese economy in recent decades was driven by open market activities, and the Chinese economy has  grown by a factor of several times largely due to becoming a ‘supply economy’, manufacturing goods meant for export, and also due to the burgeoning middle class in the country, and their rapidly growing consumer spending.

Since President Xi Jinping came to power, there has been a shift in the economy towards a larger role of the state, as has been evidenced by the central role of state-owned firms in the Belt and Road Initiative, and a growing shift of bank credit towards state-owned firms from private firms. This is also indicated by the assets of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) growing at double the pace of the national average pace of capital formation between 2012 and 2018.  

An important indicator of the state’s growing demand for influence on the economy has been the change of legislation to make it compulsory to establish a Communist Party organization for its workers in each company, whether state-owned, private or foreign. The purported purpose of these are to fulfil the role of a trade union, arguing for workers’ rights and fair wages. No management or governing role for these party organisations has yet been formally specified in the company law of the PRC.

In the last four years, many SOEs, and even those listed in Hong Kong with a combined market capitalisation of several trillions of dollars have changed their articles of association  to give key decision-making powers to these party organizations which are separate from the powers of the executives and the board of directors. At the end of last year, on 30 December, 2019, a landmark change took place, and a new regulation was put forward for the first time by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party which formally requires every state-owned enterprise to recognise the role of the party organizations in its articles of association. According to the regulation, each important business decision must be discussed with the party organ before being approved.

At first glance, this does not seem like an alarming change, because it only strengthens the control of the state on the state-owned enterprises. But this is in contradiction of the Chinese government’s earlier commitment to implement a modern corporate governance system, which puts the board of directors at the helm, so that Chinese State Owned Enterprises can compete with foreign companies.

There are also some reports, mainly from Hong Kong that this change in the corporate governance of SOEs is against the wishes of private investors who even voted against these changes in the company meetings, and these changes in the articles of association of the state owned companies were approved only because the state holds the majority stakes. Some investors even say that the recent changes have just formalised existing party influence on the companies, which it had been exercising through channels such as private meetings with the company executives, and attractive financing for those companies which comply with the party wishes.

These changes hint at a growing tendency of the Chinese state to use companies as political weapons and take key decisions influenced not only by business strategies but also as geopolitical considerations, which has been evidenced in the recent tendency towards “debt-trap diplomacy”. In a prime example of this, Chinese SOEs have taken over Sri Lanka’s airport. These changes could lower the efficiency of Chinese companies, by forcing them to take decisions that they would not take on their own. It opens up room for discourse on the attractiveness as a place for doing business . It will be quite instructive to see till what extent the Chinese state is willing to give up economics for politics. The party’s push for control is not only isolated to SOEs, as some yet unconfirmed reports have suggested that the party is pushing for more influence even in private enterprises and foreign joint ventures by demanding an increased role of the party committees in internal decision making through changes in the articles of association. The attitudes of the Chinese officials indicate a growing desire for influence in private companies, and this implies that the Party Committees will eventually be instrumental in imposing Party will on the decision-making process in both private and state-owned companies. The role of the Party in the decision-making process of Chinese companies should be carefully considered by foreign investors who seek to invest in China, as they might find that their money is not directed towards their company’s best interests, but to further the cause of the state.