Power

India escalates its hostilities with China with an app ban

The Indian government claims that software such as WeChat and TikTok is a threat to the "sovereignty and integrity of India."

TikTok logo

Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise in recent months, with anti-Chinese sentiment spiking in India after violent border clashes.

Image: TikTok

The Indian government made waves on Monday when it announced that it would ban 59 Chinese apps, including WeChat and TikTok, and claimed they pose a threat to the "sovereignty and integrity of India." It's a marked escalation in India-China hostilities, and signals tech as a major battleground in the countries' dispute.

  • Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise in recent months, with anti-Chinese sentiment spiking in India after violent border clashes. A "boycott China" campaign picked up steam, and an app called Remove China Apps surged in popularity (but was later removed by Google from its app store).
  • The country's government now seems to be responding to that consumer pressure. On Monday, its Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said it had received complaints about Chinese apps "stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data," raising concerns about "national security and defense."
  • Besides TikTok and WeChat, the list of banned apps includes Clash of Kings, Weibo, Mi Video Call and Cam Scanner. Usage on "both mobile and nonmobile internet-enabled devices" is now forbidden, though it's unclear exactly how the government plans to enforce that.

This could pose a major problem to TikTok, which has over 80 million monthly active users in India. In April of last year, the app was removed from Indian app stores for eight days after the government said it posed a risk to children.

  • At the time, executives reportedly said they were losing $500,000 a day as a result. And that ban only stopped new users from signing up, whereas this latest move bans "usage" — seemingly preventing existing users from using the app altogether.

This isn't the only way tech's been caught in the India-China crossfire: Last week, Reuters reported that tech shipments from China had been held up at Indian ports, including Apple and Dell products.

This article will appear in Tuesday's edition of our daily newsletter, Source Code. Sign up here.

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