Nothing on Indian lives lost in standoff, but China mourns loss of its apps

China never had a word to say about the Indian lives lost in the violent standoff in eastern Ladakh. But the Modi government’s decision to ban 59 apps, developed mostly by Chinese firms, has surely sent it into mourning.

In an immediate reaction after the announcement of the ban, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Beijing is strongly concerned and stressed that New Delhi has a responsibility to uphold the legitimate rights of international investors, including those of the Chinese.

The Indian government surely wanted to make a point, to send out a message about how angry it was at the Chinese transgression at the border. But China does not expect to take the ban in its stride and this was more than apparent when later in the day it said that the procedure adopted constitutes possible breach of relevant WTO rules.

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, Chinese embassy spokesperson, Counselor Ji Rong, said, “India's measures are selective and discriminatory. They are aimed at certain Chinese apps on ambiguous and far-fetched grounds, run against fair and transparent procedure requirements, abuse national security exceptions and (are) suspected of violating WTO rules. It also goes against the general trend of international trade and e-commerce and is not conducive to consumer interests and market competition in India."

The embassy urged India to change the discriminatory practices, keep the fundamental interests of both sides in mind, and treat the service provider equally and create an enabling business environment. “We hope that India recognizes the mutually beneficial nature of China-India economic and trade cooperation.”

The Chinese diplomat further reminded India that the ban would be counter-productive and detrimental to its own interests.

While claiming that the relevant apps have been operating strictly in accordance with Indian laws and regulations, he said that the ban affects the interests of Indian users and the employment and livelihood of many creators and entrepreneurs.

The Ministry of External Affairs has chosen not to react to the Chinese statement. The ban has come as a huge setback to Chinese business interests in India. Tik Tok stars with millions of followers and users, particularly youngsters, are heartbroken. Some singers in Punjab, including Gurnam Bhullar and Amy Virk, have asked their followers not to be depressed or stressed out by the development and follow them on other social media platforms. They said that the singers have no dearth of talent, which can be recognized on other platforms too.

It is also felt that the ban on a handful of mobile apps is a mere pinprick which in no way brings us closer to a peaceful resolution of the border standoff.

The ban on applications imposed on Monday will surely hurt the parent companies, mostly Chinese and a few from Singapore, constraining them to cut back their operations in India. These include Tencent's WeChat and Alibaba's UC Browser.


Worst hit will be TikTok owner ByteDance, which had a $1 billion India-specific expansion plan. According to wire agency Reuters, India is TikTok's top growth market and accounts for 30% of its 2 billion downloads worldwide.

The company said in a statement the government had asked it to respond to the ban and submit clarifications, adding that it complies with all data security and privacy requirements. It did not comment on the fate of its expansion plan.

Many TikTok users were livid. The wire agency cited one user @omkarsharma988 who posted a video in which he throws utensils to the ground, hits a chair and weeps, with a Hindi song playing "You've left me, how will I live now?" The video had been liked 218,000 times.

Google Play Store and Apple's App Store pulled the app listing within hours of the government's decision. Now, it shows error messages such as "Network error" and "No internet connection" on almost all cellular and broadband networks. Until afternoon, the app was still functioning on phones on which it had been already downloaded.

The ban has also left Tencent disappointed, which has apps and is also a major investor in Indian start-ups, sources told Reuters. The potential loss of employment is yet to be gauged. Tencent declined to comment. Two games of China-based firms, "Mobile Legends" and "Clash of Kings", were among those banned on Monday.

The 59 banned apps recorded roughly 4.9 billion downloads in India since January 2014.

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