With the Gujarat assembly election less than six months away, chief minister Narendra Modi is working furiously to get China's big business to invest in his state.
As a follow-up of his visit to that country in November, Modi had sent his top aides last week to woo top Chinese companies in power, textiles, construction and auto sector to shift their manufacturing units to Gujarat.
An official, however, said Modi's timing had less to do with the polls and more to do with what these companies are doing. These firms are trying to relocate their units from the increasingly crowded Guangdong province to western and central China, where the labour costs are lower. Modi intends to lure them to Gujarat so that the state becomes their export hub and helps encourage local ancillary units to go high-tech and make products that are cheaper for India than the imported ones, they added.
In the last 3 years, big Chinese firms in Guangdong have been battling labour costs, which have gone up by 40% to 45% because Beijing is encouraging workers' migration to other regions for development.
Modi's approach has aroused the interest of Guangdong governor Zhu Xiaodan and Sichuan's Communist Party secretary Lin Qibao. They have invited him to their international economic summits in November — when Gujarat CM will be in the thick of poll campaign.
Modi's key pointsman was Bharat Lal, Gujarat's resident commissioner in Delhi. Lal led the delegation to Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan and Hong Kong where they addressed CEOs and heads of top Chinese companies looking to invest abroad.
On his part, Modi wants big Chinese companies to attend the biennial "Vibrant Gujarat" expo in January, by which time the polls would be over.
Interestingly, Modi's feverish interest in China developed after the West, particularly the US, refused visa to him.
But once Modi began to show interest in China, several other diplomats — Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Japan and South Korea — have sought appointment with him, his aides said. Modi has already asked officials to conduct road shows in these countries in the next three months.
Last November, when Modi went to China, he carried his visiting cards printed in red ink and in Chinese.