Another blow to China; India bans 43 more apps over security concerns

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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China Boycott Image
An earlier image of people in India calling for a boycott of neighboring country China and its products

India is not done banning Chinese apps. The second-largest internet market in the world, which has banned more than 175 apps with links to the neighboring country in recent months, said it has banned an additional 43 such apps.

Like with the previous orders, India cited cybersecurity concerns to block these apps. “This action was taken based on the inputs regarding these apps for engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order,” said India’s IT Ministry in a statement.

At this point, there doesn’t appear to be any Chinese app left in the top 500 apps used in India.

The banned apps include the eCommerce app Aliexpress from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd along with few other dating apps marking a new wave of web sanctions targeting China with which India has been engaged in a months-long standoff at a border site in the Himalayas.

In India’s booming eCommerce market, which is led by Walmart’s Flipkart and Amazon’s local unit, Aliexpress is not a major player. However it is popular with some motorcycle enthusiasts and small shopkeepers, who use it to source cheap products.

For Chinese giant Alibaba, which is the largest investor in Indian fintech company Paytm and also backs online grocer BigBasket, the move is a setback. Moreover, it is another blow to the eCommerce giant after its Ant Group’s $37 billion initial public offering, (IPO) was halted in China.

The latest order comes as a handful of apps are exploring ways to return to the region, including gaming app PUBG Mobile and short-video sharing app TikTok, both of which have described India as their biggest overseas market. PUBG registered a local entity in India in recent weeks, partnered with Microsoft for computing needs and publicly pledged to invest $100 million in the country. It is yet to hear from the government.

After nearly 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas in June, tensions between the world’s two most populous nations escalated. Since then the sentiment of “Boycott China” has trended on social media in India as a rising number of people posted videos showing the destruction of Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and other products.

India also revised its foreign investment policy in April, mandating Chinese investors, who in recent years have ploughed billions of dollars into Indian start-ups, to seek permission from the government before they could write new checks to Indian firms. The move has substantially reduced the presence of Chinese investors in the deal flows to Indian startups.

Chinese companies are already having a tough time as the US president Donald Trump and his administration continues to target them. Recent reports suggested that a new list of China-based companies have been identified as having connections with the Chinese military which will block them from buying a range of US products and technology.