Opinion Columnists 30 Jul 2020 Abhijit Bhattacharyy ...
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.

Abhijit Bhattacharyya| Probe Chinese firms linked to PLA, they pose growing threat

Published Jul 30, 2020, 6:44 pm IST
Updated Jul 30, 2020, 6:44 pm IST
Many Chinese companies have been trying to make hay, not just in India but in several other countries
China's President Xi Jinping (AFP)
 China's President Xi Jinping (AFP)

As the Indian Army confronts the soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army at and around the Line of Actual Control in the Ladakh sector, the country must also prepare to take on a growing threat within the activities of a rising number of Chinese companies operating in India which have links, directly or indirectly, to the Chinese Communist Party as well as to its military arm, the PLA.

As it is, almost the entire world is now battling the Covid-19 pandemic that originated in China, and which the CCP had covered up for months, at a time when it could have been contained in Wuhan itself.


In the middle of all this, many Chinese companies have been trying to make hay, not just in India but in several other countries too, grabbing marketshare along with sundry other activities on behalf of both the Chinese Communist Party and the PLA. They are also making billions, as the world suffers.

A rigorous investigation is called for to ensure that our nation’s security is not compromised, and our economy is not destroyed. In Ladakh, at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and 175 others injured at the PLA’s hands, and this lawless CCP militia must not be allowed to run havoc in the rest of India.


Several big names like Alibaba, Tencent and SAIC Motor Corporation, among others, are suspected to be furthering the interests of the CCP and the PLA.

One enterprise launched a 0.8 million tons-per-annum iron-ore pelletisation facility at Koppal, Karnataka, at a cost of over Rs 250 crores.

Its key investor, Xinxing Cathay, is reportedly reorganised, reconstructed and unhooked from its previous avatar as the production department and subordinate enterprises of the PLA’s general logistics department.

Another company invested Rs 1,000 crores to set up a manufacturing facility in Chhattisgarh.


The state government invited them to set up a manufacturing plant, which is likely to send a team to physically examine iron ore deposits deep inside Chhatisgarh. Just imagine! A Chinese Army-linked enterprise deep inside one of India’s major raw material sources. This company, with a turnover of Rs 3,000 crores, has already supplied about 30,000 tonnes of ductile iron pipes to India.

The China Electronics Company announced a $46 million (Rs 320 crores) investment in a 200MW PV manufacturing facility in Andhra Pradesh (2018). CETC, China’s leading military electronics manufacturer, also makes CCTV cameras.


Several Chinese research institutes have been recently added to the US government’s entities list, restricting exports to them on national security grounds. They were implicated by the US justice department in several cases of illegal exports. Some Chinese employees were also convicted for military espionage.

They had obtained technology used for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where the Chinese detain over 1.5 million people in prison camps.

Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei Technologies (that is being investigated worldwide for its Chinese government links), had worked for the PLA for decades before launching his company in Shanghai in 1987. In 2018-19, Huawei’s reported revenue from India was Rs 12,800 crores.


US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned America and the world last week that Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent and others like them were not “normal” companies, they didn’t answer to shareholders or simply work to maximise profits, that they acted as agents of the Chinese State and the PLA, whose interests they furthered. Was anybody in India listening?

In 2019, the US Congress’ US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said: “The Chinese government’s military-civil fusion policy aims to spur innovation and economic growth through an array of policies and other government-supported mechanisms, including venture capital (VC) funds, while leveraging fruits of civilian innovation for China's defence sector.”


This raises hard questions about Chinese venture capital investments in India too, including by Alibaba and Tencent.

They are also developing artificial intelligence (Al) in a range of sub-domains for China under the military-civil fusion initiative. Alibaba, along with others, is part of China’s national Al team.

It already made deep inroads in India with strategic investments in Indian startups, and its portfolio includes payments firms, food delivery startups, and online grocery and logistics firms.

If Alibaba was the trailblazer, Tencent is tenacious, having made investments in the Indian tech sector, transport and food delivery, education and health.


Its $499 million investment in Ola Cabs came as both Ola India and Tencent-backed Didi Chuxing China were fiercely competing with Uber. Then followed a $700 million e-commerce investment: that deal made Tencent the biggest Chinese investor in India.

It acquired a diversified portfolio, targeting big players in every vertical, leading a $175 million fundraising round into Indian companies to a$90 million injection in a healthcare startup, followed by another $55 million.

Another Chinese firm plans to invest $200 million in India’s online gaming space, and $115 million funding in a music streaming service.


Tencent, like ByteDance, entered the news space, with $50 million funding in aggregator app NewsDog.

But the most problematic could be auto firms, such as MG Motors, originally a British carmaker. One of its subsidiaries, Nanjing Automobiles, was once the PLA’s vehicle-servicing unit.

If these CPC and PLA front companies can make millions, if not billions, from India, and this country fails to recognise what Beijing’s gameplan really is, and gets addicted to Chinese products and investments, even God can’t save India. The government needs to wake up and get cracking.


The banning of 59 Chinese apps was a good start, but much more is needed, and there is no time to be lost. If that is not done, forget the Galwan Valley or Pangong Tso, or the whole of Ladakh, the Chinese will have “captured” the heart of India.