Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Tuesday that the government was “strongly concerned” about the ban. He said that authorities were still “checking and verifying information on the situation,” but added that it was India’s responsibility to “uphold the legitimate rights of international investors.”
The Indian government said in a statement Monday that it had received complaints about the misuse and transmission of user data by some mobile apps to servers outside the country. “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India … is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said.
The move to ban the apps is the latest escalation of tensions between India and China, which engaged earlier this month in border clashes in the Himalayas that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
According to the World Bank, India imports more goods from China than any other country, buying more than $90 billion worth of products in 2018 including machinery and electronics, chemicals and consumer goods. It exported less than a fifth of that amount to China.
Now, the spat is spilling over into technology, threatening billions of dollars worth of investments into India by Chinese tech giants.
The app ban is a new battlefield in the Indian government’s fight to assert its strength and encourage Indians to use local goods, according to Gareth Price, a senior rsesearch fellow in the Asia-Pacific Programme at UK think tank Chatham House.
“Threatening to boycott Chinese goods or ban Chinese apps could potentially harm China, but it’s a bit of a hollow threat unless India has got alternatives in place,” Price said. “China makes the things that India wants to buy.”
If the ban remains in place, Chinese apps risk losing out on India’s booming digital advertising market, which is forecast to grow 26% to nearly 280 billion rupees ($3.7 billion) this year, according to advertising media company GroupM.
— Rishi Iyengar and Sherisse Pham contributed to this report.