India Expands Chinese Tech Apps Ban, Increasing Geopolitical Tension

In its latest move to expand its banned list of Chinese applications, India has placed tech companies in a much more difficult position for operational oversight in South Africa.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology added 54 Chinese tech companies to its list of banned companies under security pretenses, according to the Economic Times on Monday.

The list includes some of China’s most prominent companies, with Tencent Holdings, NetEase, and e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding at the top of the listing. In addition, the Indian Ministry registered more than 200 Chinese applications that have already been prohibited from being used in the country in the past two years.

The Indian government’s decision highlights a “more fundamental fragmentation of the digital landscape,” which has been under construction for the past years, according to a research expert at Hinrich Foundation, Alex Capri.

Despite the list including a bundle of China’s famous and most used applications, such as Tencent’s favorite WeChat and ByteDance’s famed video sharing platform, TikTok, the move reveals India’s restructuring of influence on Chinese companies in its premises.

Many of these Chinese companies chose India as their go-to stage to further expand their businesses, taking advantage of India’s recently grown economy.

However, while giants like Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, and Realme have marketed their presence in the Indian smartphones scene, various Chinese apps that were once deemed prominent players in the Indian market have now been prohibited from being used in the South Asian country.

According to Capri, the escalated geopolitical tension and “value differences” between China and India played a fundamental role in the South Asian country’s intensified scrutiny of specific Chinese applications.

New Delhi’s ban on China’s application is not only fixated on some of the biggest names in the tech industry but also included many apps owned by small Chinese firms, such as multiplayer online game, Conquer Online II – developed by Fujian-based NetDragon Websoft, and video editing application created by Hangzhou-based QuVideo, Viva Video Editor.

However, the latest ban is not the first one imposed by Indian authorities. In June 2020, the government added TikTok, WeChat, Weibo – backed by Alibaba, online retail platform SHEIN, in addition to 55 more Chinese apps to its blacklist, for allegations of “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state and public order.”

The biggest blacklising as of yet has to be that of September 2020, when the Indian authorities prohibited 118 applications, including Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao, from operating in the country.

Capri added highlighted that Chinese-based companies should be on the lookout for a much more intensified scrutinizing conduct from various countries, adding it “would be increasingly difficult for them to distance themselves from the Chinese state.”