It is well known that for the past 30-odd years, China has grown tremendously, putting other developed countries to shame, for it did things much efficiently and faster with its manpower, that the westerners could only do by enslaving most of the world. The whole world depended on China to provide steel, to provide chipsets and multi-national corporations (MNCs) depended on cheap Chinese workforce to make their products, which they eventually sold for profits in the range of 1,000 per cent or more.
But off late, the Chinese economy has been on a slow decline. The country is ageing and because of the government’s strict policies, the number of youth in the country is less than that of India. Looking at the automotive industry, India was far ahead than China but our neighbours are very competitive and despite starting much later than us, overtook us within a decade, so much so that carmakers, importantly luxury carmakers, made (and still make) specific models only to be sold in China. It was a fabulous achievement in my view, because the Chinese ordered the western auto manufacturers to make cars for their needs and did not bother buying products that were dumped on them by the developed world.
But times changed and India regained the top spot in the auto battle. Experts were wondering why China was imposing heavy taxes on cars based on their engine capacity at the same time when the world, including manufacturers from the dragon land, turned its attention towards the second largest populated country in the world. It seems that the Chinese government looks far ahead than its counterparts. By forcing manufacturers to adopt alternative technology, China now has the most number of electric vehicle (EV) startups in the world.
The reason was that they were realistic. They knew that their dominance in one field will come to an end. But their ability to accept defeat when it mattered and focus their energy into futuristic ideals is something worth learning from. Today, all manufacturers depend on the most populated country in the world to source their battery packs. Of course, they will not say it out, but the people in the know, they know what the reality is. It is a bit like an actor saying that he or she has directed a film. But insiders know that it was some associate director who did all the work.
I was at a meet with one top member of a commercial vehicle maker and he said his firm will not indulge in making batteries because the chemistry is changing rapidly. Such is the work that is being done in China when us – Indians – are still thinking about BS6 and the rise in fuel prices. If I was asked, I would say China will still be the world’s superpower at least till the next decade, for the world is dependent on it. The next electric bike or scooter that we buy will very much have a Chinese battery pack and there is no stopping it.
However, it also begs the question as to what we are doing in this country. The government wants to replace vehicles running on petrol and diesel with EVs. But it has not devised any plans to produce batteries here. It has only now started to think about setting up the necessary infrastructure. But what gets me angry is the fact that the government keeps telling us that they need to reduce fuel import bills that amounts to several lakh crore. Well, I am more than sure that the lawmakers make the money back because they tax us exorbitantly.
But the question I want to ask most is that how are they okay with us buying battery packs from elsewhere? Is it not futile to abolish something only to do the same under a different banner? It is not a wise decision to make the whole industry, that contributes massively to the GDP, depend on the Chinese or other countries for technology. Then, they would rule Indian roads and we won’t and that is something that worries me. As wise men would say, foresight and insight matter most.