Social media has been overflowing with memes ever since the Indian government decided to ban as many as 59 apps of Chinese origin. The app ban was implemented in response to the violent clashes between the two countries in the Union Territory of Ladakh. The list of banned Chinese apps contains a few famous names including the likes of WeChat, TikTok, Club Factory and UC Browser.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released a statement:
“Upon receiving of recent credible inputs that such apps pose a threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, the Government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices. This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure the safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.“
Concerns about the misuse of these apps were raised. The press release also stated that numerous Chinese apps were stealing and transmitting users’ data to servers located outside the country. The Ministry reiterated that all of these apps were banned to “safeguard” the sovereignty of the country under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
Section 69A of the IT Act gives the Union government the power to restrict websites that threaten India’s defence and sovereignty. It gives the Central government the power to block public access to any information online. Furthermore, several users had raised concerns about privacy and data security.
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Government of India has put an interim ban on 59 mobile apps of Chinese companies including #TikTok an #UCBrowser. The government has cited ‘threat to sovereignty of India and national security’ as a reason behind this. @internetfreedom.in ‘s @aparatbar raises some issues related to the #AppBan that the government needs to address. . @internetfreedom.in works to ensure freedom for citizen in digital space. You help them in this endeavour from here: internetfreedom.in/donate . #TikTokBanIndia #ChineseApps
The impact of the newly-implemented app ban is bound to be immense. TikTok and Club Factory are some of the most widely-used apps in India. A ban on these apps will lead to a significant decline in advertising revenues. Also, TikTok has more than 600 million downloads in India (nearly 30% of the total global downloads). With the app ban in place, TikTok can lose its biggest overseas market. In the October–December quarter last year, the app reported a profit of ₹25 crores in India alone.
Fortunately, there isn’t a dearth of alternatives and switching over to other similar apps won’t be a problem either.
Take this for example, those using UC Browser can switch to other browsers (Opera and Google Chrome). Those addicted to TikTok can switch to Dubsmash, a German app that lets users make bite-sized selfie videos. Now that TikTok is banned, several of its competitors would enter the fray in order to make inroads into India. Of late, TikTok’s rival, Moj, launched by ShareChat, has witnessed a massive surge in downloads. Users seem to have found a handy alternative. Moj has a rating of 3.9 on Google’s Playstore.
India’s message to China is loud and clear: economic ties with China are bound to see a plunge if Beijing continues with its “unilateral” moves on the LAC. The move isn’t expected to have a major impact on the Chinese economy but does hint at a few major possibilities in the long run.
The Indian government hasn’t banned Huawei. But the US is leaving no stone unturned to bar the telecommunication major from the communication network grid, citing security concerns. The possible ban on Huawei would be powerful enough to derail its global operations. Huawei witnessed a slump in sales owing to the US ban.
India’s economic dependencies on China are immense. India’s import dependency on China is high. Various sectors of the Indian economy are reliant on Chinese imports (pharmaceuticals, merchandise, telecommunication networks, 4G, 5G services, etc.). Around 50% of consumer durables sold in India come from China. To top it all, India’s love affair with Chinese products goes way beyond the recently-imposed app ban.
It’s a tough road ahead for India. Uninstalling a handful of apps from smartphones isn’t going to create shockwaves in the Chinese economy. However, the decision to ban Chinese apps might backfire as several Indian startups, including Zomato, Paytm, Bigbasket and Oyo are backed by Chinese investors. Therefore, New Delhi must prepare for the next steps with utmost caution and precision.