China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that it hopes India would correct its discriminatory actions against Chinese companies immediately after India banned Chinese mobile apps amid a border crisis between the two countries.
China has not adopted any restrictive or discriminatory measures against Indian products and services, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in an online briefing, adding that India’s actions are in violation of World Trade Organisation rules.
Earlier this week, India banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including the wildly popular TikTok and WeChat, citing national security and privacy concerns just weeks after a deadly Himalayan border clash between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
An estimated 120 million Indians were TikTok users before the ban.
The apps “are engaged in activities … prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” the ministry of information technology said in a statement.
“The government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain apps … This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.”
The statement said the move was taken after several complaints were received by the ministry alleging theft of users’ data and violations of user privacy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has a huge social media profile, also threw his weight behind the campaign by closing his account on China’s Weibo platform on Wednesday.
His photograph and 115 posts made over the past five years were deleted at the request of Indian authorities, the Chinese company said.
Homegrown apps attract millions following ban
Millions of Indians have joined homegrown social media platforms since New Delhi banned Chinese apps.
India’s 1.3 billion population is a key market for global internet players and homegrown app platforms Sharechat and Roposo said they had seen a huge surge in new users since Monday’s ban on their Chinese rivals.
Sharechat said in a statement that its video platform had clocked 15 million new downloads — sometimes at a rate of half-a-million every 30 minutes — in the 48 hours following the ban.
It now has at least 150 million registered users, it said.
“We welcome the move from the government against platforms that have had serious privacy, cyber-security and national security risks,” Berges Malu, public policy director for ShareChat, told AFP.
“We believe this move will help create a level playing field (for Indian platforms),” Malu added.
Some 10 million new subscribers have joined the Roposo video app, Naveen Tewari, chief executive of owners InMobi, told AFP, bringing its user base to 75 million.
Tewari said the app ban would give local platforms the chance to become the world’s fourth major tech hub alongside the United States, Russia and China.
“Such opportunities don’t come easily,” he added.
The Indian industry has long been pressing for action against Chinese apps that dominate the market, with Sharechat and Inmobi calling for the platforms to follow Indian laws and values.