India bans 43 more mobile apps in latest escalation of China dispute
- The move represents a new wave of sanctions after 20 Indian soldiers died in a border clash with Chinese troops earlier this year
- ‘The Indian side should immediately correct this discriminatory practice so as to avoid causing greater damage to the cooperation,’ Chinese spokesman said
India banned 43 mobile applications on Tuesday including Alibaba Group’s e-commerce app AliExpress in a new wave of web sanctions targeted at China, with whom it has engaged in a months-long stand-off at a Himalayan border site.
The 43 mostly Chinese origin apps, which also include a few dating apps, threaten the “sovereignty and integrity of India”, the federal technology ministry said in a statement.
India has previously banned more than 170 apps – including the wildly popular video-sharing platform TikTok – saying they collect and share users data which could pose a threat to the state.
The moves, which India’s technology minister has referred to as a “digital strike”, were initiated after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a skirmish with Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border site in June.
China on Wednesday demanded India rescind the ban. A foreign ministry spokesman accused India of violating global free-trade rules and discriminating against Chinese companies.
“The relevant methods clearly violate market principles and WTO guidelines, and severely harm Chinese companies’ legal rights and interests,” Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
“The Indian side should immediately correct this discriminatory practice so as to avoid causing greater damage to the cooperation between the two sides.”
He called on India to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests” of Chinese companies but gave no indication whether Beijing might retaliate.
AliExpress is not a major player in India’s fledgling e-commerce market, which is led by Walmart’s Flipkart and Amazon.com’s local unit. It is, however, popular with some motorcycle enthusiasts and small shopkeepers, who use it to source cheap goods.
The move is another setback for Chinese giant Alibaba, which is the biggest investor in Indian fintech firm Paytm and also backs online grocer BigBasket. Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.
Its subsidiary UC Web laid off staff in India earlier this year after New Delhi first banned 59 Chinese-origin mobile apps that included UC Web’s browser and two other products.
The Chinese tech giant has also been forced to put on hold its plans to invest in Indian companies following the border tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries.
India’s slew of app bans have also jolted the ambitions of Chinese tech titans such as ByteDance and Tencent in the South Asian country, which is trying to reduce Beijing’s influence in its burgeoning internet economy.
Additional reporting by Associated Press