next increasing internal pressure boycott products made in China, the Indian government on Monday ordered the blocking of 59 Chinese applications, including TikTok, WeChat, Shareit and Clash of kings.
Indian government framed the movement as protecting personal information against what he called “malicious applications”, which “undermine the sovereignty of India as well as the privacy of our citizens”.
But tensions have been mounting between the two nuclear powers for weeks, following a border clash in the Himalayas in which Chinese forces killed at least 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers died. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced inner critic, which undermines his image as a strong man and his posture of conciliation towards China, against which India has fought sporadically since a war in 1962.
“While the Prime Minister recently called for self-reliance, the idea would have been to build capacity and not boycott the products of India’s second largest trading partner,” Abhishek Baxi, a tech journalist and digital consultant, told BuzzFeed News. “While an action against smartphone brands would be too difficult to manage, the application ban is a fruit at hand for political postures.”
Among the 59 apps are some of the most popular and controversial in the country. As of June 2019, the most recent date for which information was available, the TikTok video sharing app was used by around 200 million people in the country as of October 2019 (Tiktok did not announce more user numbers. recent for the country). In April 2019, India banned application for a little over a week on child pornography issues.
As this ban has shown, restricting apps isn’t as easy as a government decree. This requires the cooperation of Google and Apple, which operate the stores where the apps are sold. On Monday, those companies had not indicated whether or not they were complying with the order. Apple and Google have yet to respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday evening, TikTok issued a statement saying company executives had been “invited to meet with relevant government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications.”
Earlier this month, Google removed an app called “Remove China Apps” from the Play Store in India, which had been downloaded 4.7 million times, claiming to scan people’s phones for Chinese apps and remove them.
TikTok owner ByteDance is one of the world’s most valuable companies, valued at over $ 100 billion in May, according to Business Insider. With its headquarters in Beijing, it is also one of the main vectors of Chinese soft power, its popularity raising concerns around the world, in particular US Senators, Egyptian courts, and Australian regulators.
“It is not just a question specific to India”, Abhijeet Mukherjee, the founder of Guidance technology. “There has been growing dissatisfaction with how some of these apps are ‘probably’ crossing the line.”
The WeChat group chat platform, owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, is also banned. Clash of kings, and the ShareIt file sharing application, which BuzzFeed News reported in February was used by Kashmiris to escape an Internet shutdown imposed by the Indian government. Several prominent Chinese apps were not included, including some apps owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Despite the liberalization of its foreign direct investment policies under Modi, the Indian government recently changed course. In April, China’s central bank acquired a 1.01% stake in India’s largest mortgage lender, after which the Indian government announced a new policy aimed at reducing Chinese investment in Indian companies. Although Chinese investment in India is low, its capital is disproportionately concentrated in the tech sector, with major holdings in 18 of the top 30 startups, according to the hindu.