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Sikh volunteers hang a sign prohibiting use of popular short video app TikTok at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a city in the state of Punjab in northwestern India. ByteDance-owned TikTok is among 59 China-based apps recently banned by the Indian government. Photo: Agence France-Presse

China’s tech sector quietly assesses India’s ban on TikTok, 58 other apps

  • India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Monday issued an interim order banning 59 China-based apps, citing security and privacy concerns
  • Management at TikTok in India said the company was already ‘in the process of complying with the order’

Most of China’s technology sector appeared to take a collective pause on Tuesday to assess India’s decision to ban 59 popular Chinese apps over security concerns, as tensions rise between Asia’s two biggest economies.

On Monday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued an interim order banning TikTok, WeChat, UC Browser, Baidu Map and dozens of other China-based apps, citing information that these apps “are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.

The move followed a recent wave of online protests calling for people in the vast South Asian country to boycott a range of Chinese-made goods, from apps to smartphones, after a deadly skirmish between the Indian Army and Chinese troops along the two nations’ disputed border on June 15.

Management at TikTok, the short video app owned by ByteDance, said in a statement on Tuesday that the company was already “in the process of complying with the order”.

Deadly border clash prompts renewed calls in India to boycott Chinese tech

“We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications,” Nikhil Gandhi, head of TikTok India, said in the statement. “TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government.”

TikTok, which moved ahead of YouTube in April to become the world’s highest earning non-game app, has about 120 million users in India, according to data from market research firm GlobalWebIndex.

Tencent Holdings, operator of WeChat, said it had no comment.

Baidu, China’s largest online search service, said it had no comment. Baidu’s Map and Translate apps were included in the ban.

A spokeswoman for Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp, had no comment on the ban, which included the company’s Mi Video Call app.


Indians call for boycott of Chinese goods after deadly border clash with China

Indians call for boycott of Chinese goods after deadly border clash with China

Hangzhou-based Club Factory, whose lifestyle e-commerce app was included in India’s ban, said in a statement that it “complies with all data security norms and has not compromised the security or privacy of any users”.

Still, there are many uncertainties about the ban, particularly about how it will be enforced in the long term, according to Dev Lewis, a fellow at Hong Kong-based think tank Digital Asia Hub. “Whether this is going to mean just the apps being removed from the stores, or even going down to blocking through ISP (internet service provider) levels and blocking the internet traffic to these apps,” Lewis said.

There is also speculation that smartphones from the major Chinese Android device vendors could also be affected by the negative consumer sentiment in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market.

Xiaomi led India’s smartphone market in the first quarter of this year, with a 30 per cent market share, according to data from Counterpoint Research. It said other Chinese vendors ranked in the top five were Vivo, Realme and Oppo.

“In terms of Chinese companies trying to come into the Indian market, it’s going to be even more difficult,” Digital Asia Hub’s Lewis said. “I think we’re unlikely to see much Chinese investment, or Chinese tech companies like another TikTok come into India and succeed in the near future.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Chinese tech sector weighs impact of India’s ban on apps