Vivo won’t be the only one ‘deeply shocked’ by India’s behavior: Global Times editorial
Published: Dec 25, 2023 12:31 AM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

It was reported by India media that the Indian authorities recently arrested three employees of the Indian branch of the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer, vivo, in the name of so-called combating financial crimes. Vivo stated it was "deeply shocked." This is at least the third time since October of this year that Indian authorities have made a harsh move against vivo. Based on the mostly inconclusive "investigations" before, the latest arrests provide the most intuitive sense that New Delhi is stalking specific companies in endless harassment, further confirming the impression that India is a "graveyard for foreign companies." As a vivo spokesperson put it, these arrests "indicate that harassment continues and brings uncertainty to the entire industry."

In recent years, Chinese smartphone manufacturers have been the harder-hit targets of selective enforcement and targeted interference in India. From "recovering evaded taxes," conducting office raids, to seizing 4.8 billion yuan ($670 million) of Xiaomi's Indian funds, and then arresting vivo executives, these actions constitute a stark contrast to the welcoming attitude they initially received upon entering the Indian market. The biggest change in this decade is that with the localization of these Chinese smartphone manufacturers in India, the Indian smartphone industry chain has taken shape. The challenges Chinese companies face in the Indian market today are to a large extent related to this change. Some analysts believe that in order to further promote the development of India's local smartphone industry chain, New Delhi has not hesitated to exert judicial investigations and other politicized means to attempt to intimidate and force Chinese companies to retreat.

Represented by Chinese smartphone manufacturers, the experience of Chinese enterprises in India can be described by the catchphrase on the internet, the "pig-butchering scam." In other words, Xiaomi and vivo, as representatives of Chinese smartphone manufacturers, witnessed the Indian "robbery-style development" model. What's even more bizarre is that this kind of economic and trade terrorism, which has far exceeded international rules and laws, and is even worse than the "graveyard for foreign companies" practice, has now become a deliberately overlooked and even tolerated behavior under the guise of decoupling or de-risking from China. While targeting Chinese companies, New Delhi deliberately creates an illusion for Western anti-China politicians, making them think that these measures are only aimed at China and are intended to help them achieve their "decoupling" and "de-risking" strategies. 

The problem is, if industrial substitution is India's established strategy, and "high-standard legislation, universal violation, selective enforcement" is India's characteristic, after Chinese companies, who have suffered from these practices and ultimately voted with their feet, can US and Western companies guarantee that they will not suffer the same fate as they are being enticed by India's "huge market?" 

The answer to this question has long been clear. According to data from the Indian government, from 2014 to 2021, nearly 2,800 foreign companies registered in India closed their operations, accounting for about one-sixth of the total number of multinational companies in the country. Almost all foreign companies in India have fallen victim to the Indian authorities' extortion. Taking the technology sector as an example, besides vivo, companies such as Xiaomi, Apple, Huawei, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Qualcomm have all encountered various troubles in India. They have either been labeled with a political tag motivated by pan-security concerns and subjected to various "raids and investigations," or fined for various absurd reasons. In short, whoever becomes successful and grows in India is likely to face being "slaughtered," and it is likely to happen more than once. Therefore, some people describe India's business environment as "plucking up the feathers of the wild goose whenever it passes by." Apparently, India is not only aiming at the goose "feathers," but also its "meats." 

In recent years, India has vigorously promoted its "Make in India" policy, which is not a problem in itself. It is natural for a country to aspire to develop its own manufacturing industry. However, the problem lies in India's approach, which is not about self-reliance but rather about exploiting foreign companies. Some people have summarized India's consistent strategy as luring foreign companies in, deceiving them, and then unjustly robbing their achievements, turning foreign results into Indian ones.

People rarely see India refuting the accusations of being a "graveyard for foreign investment," nor do we witness any reflections and adjustments being made. India seems to display an indifferent attitude, perhaps because it values the short-term gains from plundering foreign investment more. Its perspective on international economic and political relations appears highly utilitarian. We would like to kindly remind New Delhi that enhancing domestic manufacturing capabilities and achieving national rise cannot be achieved through short-cuts. It requires having a spirit of contract and upholding basic moral principles. If India continues to focus only on short-term benefits, its economic development will inevitably remain confined within a small scope, unable to progress far or wide. Today is vivo, who will be tomorrow's target? Multinational companies are not fools, they are all watching.