New Delhi announces ban on several Chinese apps . . .
On June 29, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps amid tensions surrounding the country’s border dispute with China, citing “threats to sovereignty and integrity.” WeChat and TikTok, two of the world’s most popular video streaming apps, were on the list. Currently, India is TikTok’s largest overseas market, with over 200 million registered users, accounting for approximately 30 per cent of all TikTok downloads. In response to the announcement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China is deeply concerned that the ban violates the legitimate rights of international investors in India.
Ban comes amid rising tensions . . .
This move by India is happening as the China-India relationship has come under acute strain. Recently, violent clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers near the China-India border resulted in several fatalities. The ban on Chinese apps appears to be a continuation of the rising tensions between the two countries. This is not the first time that India has shut down apps. The world’s largest democracy has frequently cut access to the internet, especially in conflict-prone areas like Kashmir. This week’s ban was welcomed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that the move would “boost India’s integrity and national security.”
Possible deterioration of free speech and democracy . . .
Pompeo’s applause notwithstanding, there could be negative consequences associated with the ban, particularly for the Indian people, who will have less access to online platforms and channels on which to voice their opinions. There is also fear that this move is part of a broader strategy, and may result in further deterioration of free speech and democracy in India. Like other governments around the world, New Delhi recognizes that online platforms can be used as powerful political tools. As in the case of the Chinese government’s recent banning of certain Zoom accounts used to discuss the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, there is a spreading fear of governments interfering in online platforms for political reasons. China’s retaliation against this ban, meanwhile, is yet to fully materialize.
- Al Jazeera: India PM Modi shuts Weibo account amid border tensions with China
- Economic Times: India bans 59 Chinese apps including Tik Tok, Helo, WeChat
- South China Morning Post: By forcing internet providers to block Chinese apps, India takes a page out of China’s playbook