There are three implications of India banning another 118 Chinese apps. First, it raises the wall of digital intrusions by Chinese firms, forced to act in concert with the Chinese Communist Party through the 2017 National Intelligence Law that makes them legally bound to seek out, collect and share intelligence from the countries they operate in. Second, the ban makes it commercially unviable for Chinese firms to function, not only in India but outside too — the valuations of the companies making these apps will fall. The valuation of TikTok, for instance, has fallen from $100 billion in May 2020 to $50 billion in July 2020, a 50 percent fall in two months. With users from one of the largest markets, India, protected, valuations will take a further beating. And third, as experience with the earlier bans shows, other countries led by the US will follow through. By banning another 118 mobile apps on 2 September 2020, following earlier bans on 59 apps in June 2020 and 47 apps in July 2020, India is protecting its digital borders. Even at 224, the ban on Chinese apps may not end — must not end.
The ban on these apps needs to be seen as a vaccination against digital intrusions by China that is already attempting a silly expansionist land grab at Ladakh. The two intrusions — border and technological — are linked by Chinese hostility, united by national security. In their own ways, both are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of State and public order”. At Ladakh the stakes are land; within borders, the stakes are higher — the data of Indian users, which these apps have been stealing, transmitting to servers outside India by a nation that’s openly hostile to India. Intent is difficult to calculate, easy to perceive, and as all evidence points to an aggressive Chinese Communist Party unwilling to work with the comity of civilised nations, countries at the receiving end of its medievalist and territory gobbling tendencies will devise policies presuming the worst. That China will not enter India’s borders, despite its “iron brother” nipping at India’s heels and playing chorus to Chinese huff-and-puff, is preordained. By using this opportunity to clean up Chinese digital intrusions, the government has made virtual India a safer place. This will continue.
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Gautam Chikermane is a Vice President at ORF. His areas of research are economics, politics and foreign policy. A Jefferson Fellow (Fall 2001) at the East-West ...Read More +