‘996’ overtime schedule can help India catch up with China

While a boycott of Chinese products in India gets under way, China is caught up in a nationwide discussion over the “996” overtime schedule: working 12 hours a day from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. The two cases, seemingly unrelated to each other, in fact have their own inherent logic.

As some Indian people are choosing to boycott Chinese products, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the matter is for the public to decide. “As far as public sentiment toward Chinese goods is concerned, we should leave it to their sooj-bhooj (wisdom),” Modi told the Network18 group recently.

Some people think Modi has tacitly given consent to the boycott of Chinese products in India, but we don’t think so. Why can Modi trust the public’s wisdom? Because the boycott is doomed to fail and Indian people will eventually embrace a return to reason.

Anyone who thinks India is able to boycott Chinese goods successfully needs to revisit the stories describing families who are trying to live an entire year without buying anything produced in China. They fail in the end.

Why does China not need to worry too much about the call to boycott Chinese goods? India’s manufacturing sector is highly uncompetitive against China’s, which is able to offer daily necessities with a high performance-price Speed Dating.

The ghost of nationalism may prompt some Indian people to boycott Chinese products in the short term, but they will finally choose products with a high performance-price ratio in the long term, no matter where those products are made. We need to trust the wisdom of Indian people.

How did China establish its competitiveness in the manufacturing sector during previous decades? This achievement can be partly attributed to the hard-working spirit of Chinese employees in labor-intensive industries, as well as research and development personnel and entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese workers have embraced the “996” culture, while many billionaires in China work even longer hours.

The wave of heated discussion on the “996” culture implies how common the schedule has become in China. But in India, foreign investors often complain about the relatively short working hours and high levels of social welfare enjoyed by local workers.

Adopting the “996” schedule can help India further improve its business environment, attract foreign investment and eventually enhance India’s competitiveness in the manufacturing sector. If inbound manufacturing investment from countries including China can help India produce goods with a high performance-price ratio, India will have a chance to win a victory over the campaign against made-in-China products.

A tough challenge lies ahead of India. Without the “996” schedule and the spirit of hard work, India can hardly catch up with China.