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Members of the City Youth Organisation hold posters with the logos of Chinese apps in support of the Indian government for banning the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok, in Hyderabad on June 30, 2020. Photo: AFP.

More Chinese apps removed from India’s app store, including Baidu search, amid ongoing border dispute backlash

  • India has announced its intention to ban around 59 Chinese apps
  • India backlash has threatened to open another front in China’s tech war with the US

More Chinese apps have been taken down from local app stores in India amid simmering tensions between the two countries after a violent border clash two months ago, with Baidu’s search app, Xiaomi’s browser and ByteDance’s video-editing tool CapCut among the latest to disappear.

Several Chinese-developed apps have been quietly removed from the Indian Apple and Google Play stores in recent days – in line with previous announcements by the Indian government banning a number of unnamed apps. Several photo- and video-editing apps from Chinese company Meitu, a mail service from Chinese gaming company NetEase and gaming app Heroes War are also among the fresh batch of apps being removed, according to checks by the Post.

The Indian government is continuing to monitor the situation and “will take a call on further action if any of the apps try to come back with different names”, a senior government official said, according to an earlier report by the Economic Times.

India has announced its intention to ban around 59 Chinese apps, and so far popular microblogging app Weibo, viral short video app TikTok, China’s ubiquitous messaging app WeChat and multiple others from China’s internet giants including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and Xiaomi have been targeted. India has cited “sovereignty and security” threats but many analysts see it as a political response to rising public anger over the border clash and an influx of China tech capital at the expense of local players in recent years.

After India bans China’s TikTok, border row ‘could weaponise phones, pharma’

“I think the fact that these apps have already been around for a long time and some of them have more than 100 million users, suggests that the timing of the move is more to do with the border tensions and not because of the other issues of privacy or data security,” said Ananth Krishnan, a former Brookings India fellow, in an earlier interview with the Post in July.

Baidu declined to comment on Tuesday. Xiaomi did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Meanwhile Tencent announced WeChat would cease operations in India last week to comply with the new India laws.

However, the India backlash has threatened to open another front in China’s tech war with the US. Four of India’s top five smartphone brands are Chinese, accounting for over 70 per cent of the market share, according to a recent report by research firm Counterpoint. Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo all have operations in India, with production plants and flagship stores. Bytedance’s TikTok had 200 million subscribers in India and had overtaken YouTube there before it was banned.

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies is also in the running to help India build its 5G networks.

Zhang Dingding, an internet industry commentator and former head of Beijing-based research firm Sootoo Institute, said the fallout for China tech all depends on “how serious the Indian government is” about driving Chinese apps out of the country.

“I am inclined to believe that the Indian government would prefer a publicity war rather than an actual clash of economies,” Zhang said. “Most Chinese [app] companies impacted entered the Indian market after they achieved mainstream success in their home country ... The ban in India should not hurt their fundamentals.”

However, the India action comes as the US ratchets up its pressure on Chinese tech companies. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump will take action against TikTok, WeChat and “countless” Chinese software companies that pose a national security threat to America, according to a Fox News interview on Sunday.

And on Monday US President Donald Trump threatened to put TikTok “out of business” in the US if it is not sold by September 15 amid a ruling that it posed a national security threat.

Additional reporting by Che Pan and Coco Feng

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: More Chinese apps banned in India over border clash