Indians are trending #BoycottChineseProducts—using Chinese smartphones

“Tweet posted from some Chinese Android phone.”
“Tweet posted from some Chinese Android phone.”
Image: AP Photo/Andy Wong
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Chew on this: For the past few days, Indians have probably been using Chinese-made phones to seek a boycott of made-in-China products.

After China blocked a March 13 UN Security Council move to blacklist Masood Azhar, the chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, as a “global terrorist,” Indians trended #BoycottChineseProducts on Twitter. They asked fellow citizens to stop buying China-made electronic products, clothing, and firecrackers, among other things.

Yet, in fiscal 2018, Indians spent upwards of Rs50,000 crore ($7.2 billion) on just four Chinese smartphone brands—Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and Honor.

This irony didn’t go unnoticed.

Made-in-China domination

In 2018, Chinese brands registered their strongest ever annual performance in India. By the end of last year, they held 60% of its smartphone market, up from 54% in 2017, according to Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research.

Beijing-based Xiaomi recorded its highest ever shipments in India during 2018. Realme, which started off as a sub-brand of Oppo in mid-2018 and was spun off into an independent company, surpassed Oppo in terms of shipments by year-end.

In October-December 2018, four of the top five smartphone brands in India were Chinese.

Besides, China’s presence is way more deep-rooted than just this handful of brands. Even other popular devices such as Apple’s iPhones are assembled in China. Some of Samsung’s smartphone component are made in China, too.

Why just phones, even accessories such as earphones and chargers likely come from China.

Chinese everything!

If anything, the Twitter users’ call for boycott itself highlights how deeply Chinese firms have penetrated India.

A list circulating on social media calls on Indians to uninstall massively popular Chinese apps like online retailer Club Factory, which has 40 million users in the county; there is the video-sharing site TikTok, nearly 40% of whose 500-million user base lies in India. Online gaming obsession PUBG, a chart-topper on Android and iOS handsets alike in India, also made it to this list.

Just in case, India’s largest digital payment app is also under fire.

Calling it a “Chinese company,” netizens rooted for boycotting Noida-based Paytm since its single biggest shareholder is Hangzhou-based Alibaba.