For those who may not be up to date on their tech news, India’s government banned nearly 60 Chinese mobile apps on Monday. The most affected ones being TikTok, UC Browser, Xender and WeChat due to their massive amounts of Indian users. This drastic move raises at least two important questions though. Why this is happening and what will this rivalry between India and China mean for the tech world.
India vs China
Let’s start with the ‘why’. There’s been an ongoing feud between the two over a shared border for a while now. A deadly clash between India and China’s militaries this month has raised tensions between them.
The climax of this dispute came two weeks ago when it left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties. This was the worst state of violence between the two nuclear-armed countries in more than 50 years.
Effects on the Tech Community
Apps and Websites Hardest Hit
About 50 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion citizens are online. Of that number, 120 million make a third of the TikTok’s global users. This is a significantly huge number owing to the fact that they could affect the TikTok ratings on the Google Play Store in a matter of days.
As much as India has had its say, China is not silent either. Indian newspapers and websites are not accessible in China. Users in the country have to use VPNs to be able to access information and news from India.
This move seems to have been in the works for some time as the Indian government has had longstanding worries that Chinese companies are dominating local markets. That they are beating out Indian app developers, it also has national security concerns about what China does with the data it collects.
India’s announcement highlights how technology companies are increasingly becoming entangled in geopolitical disputes. In China, American platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Wikipedia and many others have long been banned. If China is not careful, they may be so focused on America and lose India.
Ban on Huawei and 5G
Let’s take at Huawei for a bit. The Chinese telecommunications giant has been the subject of some of the greatest scrutiny too. American authorities are pushing allies to ban the company from building wireless networks. This is over claims that it aids the Chinese state in cyberespionage. Huawei has denied the accusations but no one seems to be disproving them either.
In light of the recent events, the Indian government has begun consultations to decide on the use of 5G technology. They note that it is a precursor to a possible bar on the use of equipment from Chinese companies. For example, those made by Huawei, when India rolls out the high-speed network.
For now, the government says the ban is interim. The banned apps will be given a chance to respond to the government’s concerns before a committee that includes various ministries. The committee will then recommend whether to remove the ban or continue it.
We’re not sure how things will go from here. With the Coronavirus pandemic still underway, things might, unfortunately, take a turn for the worst this year. For these apps, loosing almost 150 million users takes a toll, no matter who you are.
Hardware-wise too, China will be heavily affected with this move should it result in for example cancellation of their tech imports. They will definitely try and appeal for this to be retracted.
If China, arguably the worlds largest source of technology and India, arguably the worlds largest source of ‘users’, don’t work together, the tech ecosystem is in for an unpleasant rollercoaster ride.