India Announces Additional Ban of More Than 100 Mostly Chinese Apps

India Announces Additional Ban of More Than 100 Mostly Chinese Apps
Members of the City Youth Organisation hold posters with logos of Chinese apps in support of the Indian government for banning the wildly popular video-sharing TikTok app, in Hyderabad, India, on June 30, 2020. (Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang

India has now banned more than 200 mostly Chinese mobile apps, citing the apps' collection of user data as a national security risk.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued the latest ban on Sept. 2, identifying a total of 118 mobile apps, according to a government press release. It's the third list of banned apps issued since June.

The 118 apps “engaged in activities which [are] prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state, and public order,” the ministry said.

Among the banned apps are two apps by Chinese search giant Baidu; online payment app Alipay and shopping app Mobile Taobao, both developed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba; a news app by Chinese technology firm Sina; video conferencing app VooV Meeting by Chinese tech giant Tencent; and an e-commerce app called ShareSave developed by Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi.

Many more on the list are mobile games developed by Chinese tech giants or companies owned by them, including Arena of Valor and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (owned by Tencent), and Cyber Hunter (developed by NetEase).

The ministry said it had received “credible inputs” that these apps “collect and share data in a surreptitious manner and compromise personal data and information of users,” based on certain embedded functions within these apps, user permission requests, and information shared on these apps.

The ban was issued after a strong call by the public sector as well as concerns expressed by Indian officials across the political spectrum, according to the ministry.

“This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security, and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” the ministry stated.

The ban comes at a time of heightening tensions between India and China. In mid-June, a deadly clash in the disputed border region of Galwan Valley left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties. Tensions elevated again recently when India and China blamed each other for violating border agreements in the area near Pangong Tso Lake in the Ladakh region.
Popular video-sharing app TikTok and messaging app WeChat were among the 59 Chinese apps banned in India’s first blacklist, issued on June 29. In late July, 47 additional Chinese apps were banned, most of which were clones and variants of apps banned in June, such as TikTok Lite.

China’s hawkish state-run Global Times reacted angrily to the latest Indian ban. In an article published on Sept. 2, it accused India of “ill intentions” behind the move in order to stir up tension between the two countries.

The U.S. government has voiced support for India in its border conflict with China. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, while speaking at the U.S.–India Strategic Partnership Forum on Aug. 31, said that the U.S. strategy was to “push back against China in virtually every domain.”

“We’re doing it in terms of outsized demands to claim sovereign territory, whether it’s in the Galwan Valley of India on the India–Chinese border, or whether it’s in the South Pacific,” Biegun said.

The Trump administration has sought to address threats posed by Chinese apps.

On Aug. 6, President Donald Trump issued orders banning U.S. transactions with TikTok and WeChat and their parent companies, ByteDance and Tencent, respectively. On Aug. 14, Trump issued another order, giving ByteDance 90 days to sell off its TikTok business in the United States.
On Aug. 31, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox Business that more Chinese apps could be banned.

"It is critical that this country not use apps that are made in China, or that can take our data and go to servers in China,” he said.

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.