Indian citizens are smashing Chinese-made TVs on the streets and burning images of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Consumers, incensed over Monday's loss of life at the Himalayan border, are calling for a boycott. The Indian government is responding with tariffs.
It appears the aftershocks of the first deaths along the India-Chinese border since 1975 will rumble away for a while. There was a total of US$95.7 billion in two-way trade between the billion-person nations as of 2018 -- US$76.9 billion moving into India from China, and US$18.8 billion in Indian goods moving the other way.
The Indian government plans to raise import duties on 300 Chinese products. It also intends to impose other trade barriers. State-run Indian telecoms will be barred from using Chinese equipment, according to Indian press reports, thus cutting out Huawei Technologies and ZTE ZTCOY from upgrading India's 4G network. India's Railways Ministry will terminate a "mega-contract" for a signaling system with a subsidiary of China Railway Signal & Communication Corp. CRYCY, according to The Indian Express.
Chinese companies dominate the market for mobile phones in India. Those brands now face a loss of sales if any boycott is sustained. Even TikTok, the wildly popular dance video app from Beijing-based Bytedance, is a target, with news coverage featuring stories on how to detect and uninstall Chinese apps from your phone. Although TikTok may also come in handy, as a retired Indian army major who heads a residents group in a Delhi neighborhood is encouraging Indian citizens to throw out their Chinese-made goods and upload images of the items lying in the streets onto social media.
The Confederation of All India Traders, a trade body for merchants, says it will embark on an anti-China boycott, according to The Guardian. That covers 450 categories of commodities, or around 3,000 Chinese products including handbags and furniture.
I wrote on Wednesday about the clash between Chinese and Indian troops on a precipice over a remote snow desert gorge that left 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese rivals dead.
Chinese online commentators are wondering why the Chinese military has not released any casualty count of its own. But that is par for the course. What positive spin is there to put on dead soldier bodies? Indian reports suggest 43 dead or injured on the Chinese side. The Indian army is contending with 76 injured soldiers with 10 captured troopers now returned.
China has seized 23 square miles of territory it disputes with India over the past two months, according to The New York Times. As a result, scuffles between troops on the two sides started in early May. China appears concerned that recent Indian construction in India's Ladakh territory threatens China's National Highway 219 in its territory of Aksai Chin.
China and India have both moved heavy machinery into the Galwan Valley, where this fighting happened. Satellite images show China has been building roads and river crossings, and perhaps even a dam, Reuters reports, with perhaps 40 Indian vehicles and 100 vehicles on the Chinese side.
Commanders on the two sides met on June 6 and agreed that troops would fall back. Still, the Indian side suggests China continued to intrude, building observation towers and erecting two tents on what India says is its side of the Line of Actual Control.
When an Indian patrol ventured to a nearby ridge to see if the Chinese troops had withdrawn as agreed, they demolished the small observation towers and burnt the tents. Chinese soldiers then arrived and confronted the Indian troops with fence posts and homemade clubs bristling with nails and barbed wire. China says the Indian troops crossed the Line of Actual Control and provoked the clash; India says the Chinese troops trespassed and started it.
The Chinese side waited for Indian soldiers to approach, then opened the sluice gates on mountain streams they had dammed, according to The Hindu. This knocked Indian soldiers into the Galwan River as the Chinese soldiers launched a premeditated attack, according to that narrative.
On the economic front, this is a trade skirmish rather than all-out war, just as the deadly clash was between troops on the ground while their generals were trying to disengage. It is not yet enough to move stock markets significantly until any increased duties are imposed. The Indian benchmark Sensex is up 0.4% on Friday, while the CSI 300 in Shanghai and Shenzhen has moved ahead 0.7% on a generally positive day for Asian shares.
How many fronts does China want to fight a proxy war? Its troops may have killed their Indian counterparts. But China is also slashing Aussie imports in a trade spat with Australia, which has demanded an investigation into the root cause of the coronavirus. It is seizing coral reefs in the South China Sea and turning them into islands, alienating the countries with claims on that territory. It has sunk a Vietnamese fishing vessel. It is locked in a diplomatic tussle with Britain after violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong by laying down a treason-and-sedition law from Beijing instead of the local government. Britain has roped in the G7 nations in support.
Smashed Chinese TVs in the street may be the least of its worries if it continues to contest all those hostile fronts.