Hickory Dickory TikTok: Time is up for over 200 Chinese apps in India

October 2, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Following political tensions between India and China at the Himalayan border, India has increased the list of banned popular Chinese apps such as TikTok, WeChat and the game PUBG Mobile from 59 to over 200.

What does this mean?

Due to increasing geopolitical tensions, the move towards expanding the list of banned popular apps was deemed necessary by India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. As a matter of data protection, the Ministry emphasised that the collection of information via such apps were “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.” Having declared that such apps were breaching privacy and “hostile to national security,” the bans imposed were deemed wholly necessary. With India holding a significant online presence, by ranking second in mobile downloads (with approximately 12 billion app downloads recorded), such drastic steps to secure Indian data privacy hold significant implications for the global presence of Chinese apps and the future prospects of Chinese technology companies.

What's the big picture effect?

Certainly, not all of these banned apps are of equal popularity nor prevalence across India. Nevertheless, banning them significantly restricts the available marketplace and access to consumers for prominent Chinese technology companies such as Tencent. Of particular concern for Tencent would be the banning of the game “PUBG Mobile Nordic Map: Livik.” Since its initial introduction in 2018, this game now holds 93,000,000 downloads. As observed by Arjun Kharpal, it is the highest grossing app on India’s list of banned apps,having earnt $39,600,000. This emphasises the true scale of profitability and the costly impact of India’s decision for Chinese technology companies.

Beyond China’s ban, significant steps have also been taken by the US towards banning TikTok and WeChat due to similar concerns over national security. Notably however, in the US, companies are fighting back against and questioning the validity of reasoning for implementing such bans. For example, TikTok successfully obtained an injunction against app downloads being prevented and a Californian judge has already prevented the WeChat ban as a matter of free speech. Such matters illustrate the varying levels and impact of political tensions between the US and India with China.

On the one hand, such disappointment for China could open up new opportunities for other technology firms across the globe to break into the Indian market; facilitating innovation and raising awareness about the political importance attached to data protection. However, as asserted by technology policy expert Prasanto Roy, there is an equal cause for concern for the ability to expand apps across the foreign marketplace as the government bans could “effectively kill” popular apps. Mr Roy further suggests that what may be regarded as a “soft strike at the Chinese, [and] payback for the claimed border violations” also hold widespread implications for the app users and app owners themselves should not be underplayed.

Without appropriate consideration as to geopolitical tensions across the global landscape, this could ultimately hinder the outreach of beneficial innovative developments and place the technological market in a vulnerable position to political influence. Looking towards the future, risk management against such matters will therefore require greater consideration from app developers and technology companies alike.

Report written by Karolina Smolicz

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