China’s services market is huge and still expanding, but can India take a share?
Published: Aug 30, 2023 10:31 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

As the world's top trading nation in goods, China has shown increasing promise in the services trade over the years, attracting much attention from multinational enterprises. The growth in demand for services imports provides an opportunity for India to reduce its trade deficit with China. Can India seize the chance and bring its advantages into play?

With the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), which is set to take place from September 2 to September 6 in Beijing, the growing Chinese services market is again in focus. The UK is planning to send its largest business group in four years to attend the 2023 CIFTIS as the Guest Country of Honor. Compared with some Western countries, it is regrettable to see India's presence at the trade fair is relatively small.

Enormous potential remains to be tapped in the Chinese services market. China's services trade has maintained rapid growth, with the value up by 12.9 percent year-on-year to a record high of nearly 6 trillion yuan ($823 billion) in 2022, ranking second in the world for nine years in a row. 

In the first half of this year, China's services imports amounted to 1.8 trillion yuan, an increase of 22.1 percent. Inbound and outbound travel services increased by 65.4 percent year-on-year, making this the fastest-growing sector. Of the total, imports increased by 66.4 percent. China's services imports have great potential for growth. The huge market is crucial for India.

India's widening trade deficit with China has long been seen as a challenge for bilateral relations. With rising trade protectionism, some Indian people believe that the country should reduce its trade deficit by cutting imports and carrying out localized production. 

But protectionism can't ease the pressure India faces from its trade deficit. Pushing up exports is a better way to cut India's trade deficit with China than rising protectionism toward Chinese-made products.

India's export potential in fields such as film and tourism is still far from being fully realized. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian films had found both fans and revenues in China. India has the globally renowned Bollywood film industry and China is one of the world's largest film markets. The two sides have large potential for economic and trade cooperation.

Now, the Chinese film industry is rebounding from steep pandemic losses. As of Tuesday, the daily box office revenue had exceeded 100 million yuan for 70 consecutive days, setting a new record. China is willing to grant more market access to Indian services in a bid to explore India's export potential in fields such as film, tourism and other services industries. Hopefully India can seize the opportunity in the Chinese market.

Bilateral economic ties are at an advanced and delicate stage, with competition and cooperation coexisting, even though competition gets more public attention. However, more attention should be paid to the fact that the two sides have great potential in cooperation and should further enhance exchanges and cooperation in areas with complementary advantages.

In recent years, India has been adopting a range of unfair market measures, including tax investigations, or non-tariff trade barriers, to protect its domestic industries. But India needs opportunities in the global markets, including the Chinese markets. A sound bilateral relationship needs to be reciprocal. India should also open its doors to Chinese companies.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.