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India vs. China: Disputes
When we discuss about the foreign policies of India its relationship with its neighbouring countries like China and Pakistan comes to our mind. It has often been a source of concern for India when it comes to its relation with these two countries due to its continuous territorial disputes with them.
The China and India border is disputed at many locations since there is no publicly available data which shows clearly shows the Indian LAC.
The warfare of the Galwan Valley on June 2020 led to the development of various campaigns which were led by the Indians in order to boycott Chinese product had begun. Economically there was a scrutiny which included cancellation of contracts with various Chinese firms and business enterprises and also efforts were made to restrict Chinese company entries into the Indian market.
By the end of 2020, the Indian Government ended up banning more than 100 Chinese apps owned by renowned companies such as Alibaba, Baidu, Sina and Bytedance, etc.
In the midst of the war which occurred last year in 2020 in between China and India on the border situated in Ladakh, which resulted in the death of almost 20 brave Indian soldiers, the Indian Government took the initiative on 29th June 2020 to ban almost 59 Chinese applications stating that it played a role in hampering the cyber protection and nation’s sovereignty. Since then 118 Chinese apps have been banned in the Indian cyber space including applications such as PUBG, Tik Tok, UC Web Browsers, We Chat, etc.
Reason Behind the Boycott and App Ban
The department of Information Technology of the Indian Government stated in their press release last year that they had been receiving various negative feedbacks and complaints stating the abuse of private information of the users of the above presently banned applications. The complaints included misuse of user’s data and personal information in an unsanctioned manner.
The banning of the apps took place under section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2020 stressing on the fact of threat to the nation’s protection and worries related to the misuse of private details of the users and subscribers of the mentioned Chinese applications.
Firstly it is essential to understand the reason behind such an action of banning of the apps which collected such a large number of users.
It is to be seen that an app such as “PUBG” was utilised by almost 13 million users or players per day, which according to warfare experts would most likely result into a colossal infringement of millions of sensitive information keeping in mind the current conflict between India and China.
The banning of the apps will also simultaneously reduce the dependence of the Indian citizen on foreign applications and hence will end up moving on to using and promoting domestic android applications.
Another motive behind Chinese app ban was to create a certain amount of economic pressure on China as Indian population base stands as one of its premium and prime user base for their apps.
The Government of India with the liberty of the “app ban” is also trying to boost its infant Atmanirbhar Programme in order to promote and establish Indian Start ups and to gain an economic boost, further aiming to hit heavily the Chinese economy also in order to motivate its own citizens to start their own applications formats and attract numerous foreign investors and their investments.
The banning of the popular Chinese social media app known as Tik Tok was already in the books of the Indian Government due to its weak privacy standards and also for its inappropriate content making strategies. One of the most prominent reasons behind banning of such apps is to discourage applications or apps which promote inappropriate behaviour into the Indian community.
The Indian Government’s ban on Chinese apps also looks forward to create a blockage or rather is trying to slow down the Chinese Global Emergence and is planning to provide a getaway to the Indian start ups and apps to move forward and flourish at a national as well as at a global level.
Now when we think about the regular users of these banned apps, the question comes to our minds is whether and how will they find a substitute for the apps of which they have been a regular users for a long period of time. India has been always prepared for such a situation and has provided with outcomes which shows it will and is very easy for the regular users of these Chinese apps to move on to something similar and easier which will provide them with smoother and better results. Tik Tok on the most popular and highly used content creating app has been put up against a similar content making app known as “Chingari” which has seen a colossal rise in downloads and users as soon as Tik Tok was taken off the Indian market. Similarly UC browser, We Chat and other such applications can be and will be substituted by Google, chrome, Whatsapp, etc respectively.
Chinese Government Response and Clarifications
China’s response towards these recent app bans has not been pleasant either. China has stated that the actions taken by the Indian Government is to be considered as a violation of the rules of the World Trade Organisation as it aims to discriminate Chinese apps on baseless accusations of hampering its nations security. China also states that India is going against the regulations of international trade and electronic commercial activities which is acting against the consumer interest and its market competitors.
The People’s Republic of China is considered to be one of the biggest partners in trade to India right after United States of America. The present action of banning of the applications has also raised serious concerns for China.
The Foreign Ministry spokesperson for China Zhao Lijian stated on a press release that China has always made sure that its enterprises conducting business with foreign countries and other enterprises abide by International regulation which has been specifically set up by World Trade Organisation.
Mr. Zhao states that it is the responsibility of the Indian Government to make sure that the rights if the international investors in India including the Chinese trade and commercial investors are protected and is kept in accordance to the market principles. Zhao also states that it would be mutually beneficial for both the countries to focus on their business relationship as it will be mutually beneficially for both the countries.
Previously it was mentioned by multiple government officials in India that tensions occurring on the border would not have any impact on the trade and commercial relations between the two countries. But with an immense increase of calls for the boycott of Chinese products due to the after effect of the Galwan valley incident, various industrial analysts started stating their concerns that boycotting Chinese products would rather have a negative impact compared to an expected positive outcome. The boycott and ban would not only have an negative impact on India’s social holding in the international trade and commercial market but also would have a limited impact on China, since it when compared to India at an economic front is a much bigger trade power.
For India to give a suitable response to China, it will not be a viable for it to physically engage with China since it is a much bigger and can be considered as a powerful enemy. This virtual response of banning of the apps is a much more suitable and viable option for India.
China itself has been adopting this method of banning apps like Whatsapp, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, YouTube, and Newyork Times in order to protect and promote its own business and start ups. Hence for India utilising its opponent’s actions in order to achieve similar results can be considered as a good strategy.
Indian app alternatives for banned Chinese apps
When the Chinese app ban was initiated various short video applications formats were on their way to rise up to the demands of the Indian Consumers in this sector, by the sudden ban of the strong market holders of this sectors such as Tik Tok, Sharechat etc, Indian made apps such as Likee, MX player, Zee5 started gaining popularity in the given circumstances.
Tik Tok while still in force provided monetary benefits to its premium content creators and users and it was essential for many of these Indian alternatives to have a source of monetization for such content creators and also provide them with the opportunities to increase their social media outreach by promotional partnerships deals and monetary fees structures. When the two kinds of apps namely the China made and the Indian made we evidently see some drawbacks on the latter. Firstly the previous app had a much bigger global outreach, secondly the market for the local apps are limited and also faces a lot of competition with various substitute apps and finally it does not provide a out of the box or a new experience for the users.
Another most popular app in India was PUBG. PUBG even though is a South Korean online multiplayer game also known as Player’s Unknown Battle Ground made its cut for ban in India due to its partnership with China based Tencent Games. PUBG was gaining and had accumulated more than 175 million downloads all across India which alone covered around 24 percent of its installations all around the world. After the occurrence of Chinese app bans in India the South Korean company ended its partnership with Tencent Games and is in works to make its comeback as Battle Grounds Mobile India. The comeback of PUBG is still highly under scrutiny as it was previously sending the user data information to China as per the IGN India reports.
Due to the current surge in Covid 19 no new alternatives for PUBG was readily available in the place of the banned mobile app but Bengaluru based Core games provided an alternative known to be as FAUG also known as Fearless and United Guards in the last months of 2020, but it still not has been readily accepted by the Indian audiences yet.
Chinese apps ban has played a huge part into promoting the Make in India movement and has indeed pushed the Indian public to look for Indian alternatives.
Applications like Koo and Tooter were also similar apps to Twitter, while Tooter did not flourish well Koo somehow managed to stay afloat and has almost acquired 6 million Indian users though it is relatively a new budding app and is only a year old. This new app has also acquired some big investments from various companies and is almost set to give a good fight on behalf of the Government of India to twitter as both the parties have been under quite a conflict in the recent years. Koo has also strengthened its steps in Nigeria as the country also recently has banned twitter.
The Chinese Document scanning app famously known as Cam Scanner has also been successfully replaced by a Gurugram based company’s app known as Kaagaz Scanner. Kaagaz Scanner was launched on March of 2020 and has achieved a whopping number of 1.7 million of active users and installations and has raised around 575000 dollars from various multinational corporations such as Infosys and many more.
Banning or boycotting of the Chinese apps in India is undoubtedly a major step for the Indian Government. Even though China being a much larger player in the International Commercial Sector in comparison to India’s state, it is indeed commendable for India to have taken a much more practical and impactful approach instead of losing their manpower by engaging in the physical repercussions with the Chinese army.
The initiative taken by the Indian Government mostly focuses on making the country self reliant altogether and also promoting local start-ups and providing the budding youth of India a source of employment and opportunity.
The step to ban the Chinese apps in India was taken after an intensive investigation which was held by the Indian Ministry of Information Technology. Apart from India taking such intensive actions to protect the privacy of its citizens, countries like Germany, Australia, USA and UK has also been actively acting in a similar manner in order to protect the sovereignty and integrity of their respective countries.
As mentioned previously one of the main goals of the Indian Government is to expand its idea of ‘Make in India’ movement. Various Indian multinational corporations as well as small start ups have started working to fill the void of the banned Chinese apps in India. This new development will not only provide a large number of employment opportunities but will also develop the information technology and research and development in Indian IT field.
Previously before the app ban took place the Indian user data stood vulnerable in the cyber space. After the incident of app ban, the Reserve Bank of India has managed to convince multinational companies like Paytm, Google and Whatsapp to secure their data bases in India so that the personal information if every Indian user stays within the Indian border.
Presently India is at a dire need of a well framed data protection laws so that the user data in India becomes impenetrable. The PDP bill also known as the Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 can be considered as one of the first step taken by the Indian Government to the road towards framing a proper legislation in regards to data protection laws in India.
Thus it can be mentioned that the action of banning the Chinese apps has highlighted the need of data protection laws in India. This step of ban taken by the Indian Government is also heavily supported by various foreign countries such as United States of America and France; India was and is being greatly appreciated globally, with this strategic move of banning the Chinese app has shown India’s great potential at major decision making and will also prove its strength in app development and showcase the capacity to improve its research and development skill in its IT sectors. India’s strategy to promote Atmanirbhar Abhiyan has become a source of motivation for Indian youth as they enable them to showcase their competence, skill, passion to be self reliant and also the power to take forward the Indian economy at the current economically devastating situation created due to Covid 19.
Therefore with these results it can be concluded that banning of the Chinese apps will provide a much brighter future for India.
 Editorial, “What will be the impact of Chinese apps ban” The Hindu, July 05, 2020.
 The Significance of India’s ban of Chinese apps, India, available at: https://dare2compete.com/blog/the-significance-of-indias-ban-of-chinese-apps (Last visited on July 21, 2021)
 India retains ban on 59 Chinese apps including Tik Tok, India, available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-china-apps-idUSKBN29U2GJ (last visited on July 21, 2021)
 Editorial, “Chinese apps ban: China is strongly concerned, verifying the situation, says Zhao Lijian” The Economic Times, June 30, 2020.
 Editorial, “One year of Chinese apps ban- Indian alternatives take over Tik Tok, Business Insider India, June 29, 2021.
Author: Amrita Ghosh, KIIT School Of Law, Bhubaneswar.
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India.