Conflicts on the border and clashes between Chinese and Indian security forces on May 15 in the Galwan Valley came to naught after India decided to impose a provisional ban on Monday, June 29, 2020, on the popular Chinese platform for Create TikTok videos, along with 58 other applications. India, the third largest economy in Asia, did so because of “security problems”. There is also speculation that the government suggested to national telecommunications companies to refrain from using Chinese-origin telecom hardware, in particular from Huawei and ZTE.
In the weeks following the conflicts on the border, India reported the deaths of 20 soldiers. In addition, protests against the Chinese government spread across the country, in which many trade groups burned Chinese products. Finally, social media users suggested that Indian citizens refrain from buying Chinese products. All this led to Chinese brands, such as Xiaomi, replacing their labels with the legend “Made in India” to avoid instances of vandalism. Make in India (Do in India) is a campaign promoted by the Indian Government to encourage companies to produce their products in India and benefit the Indian economy.
As a consequence of all these prohibitions, the use of Indian apps with functionality similar to Chinese apps banned by the Indian government such as Tik Tok, Helo and WeChat increased. One of those applications, Chingari, had 100,000 new users in just 30 minutes.
The conflicts of June 15 represented the first acts of violence with fatalities between Indian and Chinese forces in 45 years, after decades of creating carefully cultivated economic ties. For example, Chinese companies that make smartphones set up factories in southern India to meet a growing demand for low-cost Chinese smartphones.
Damage to the sovereignty and integrity of India
India represents a key market for TikTok, an application of the ByteDance company, since 30% of global users come from this country, which translates to a total of 120 million users. The loss of the Indian market could represent a severe blow to the valuation of the company preparing for a public offering of shares.
The Indian government called the Chinese owners' applications “detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of India, state security and public order.”
He also added “having received many complaints from various sources, such as many complaints about the misuse of some mobile applications available on iOS and Android platforms to steal and clandestinely sell users' information without authorization to servers outside of India” .
In addition to TikTok, India has also banned ShareIt, a music and image sharing app, UC Browser, Likee, an app for broadcasting short videos, WeChat, messaging and social media, and the Bigo Live live streaming service. Global Times, a government media outlet, called the ban “political censorship of Chinese companies.”
However, technical researchers noted that the ban does not include any of the Chinese applications serving financial transactions through the Indian government-regulated payment system Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a service that has access to private information of users.
.@logic: They haven't touched any of the UPI apps coming from China such as MiPay, etc. which handle more sensitive data including Aadhaar, biometric (facial recognition) and financial data. This is not an economic warfare angle at play, but these particular apps.
– MediaNama.com (@medianama) June 30, 2020
They did not touch any of the Chinese UPI applications such as MiPay, etc., applications that handle much more sensitive information such as Aadhaar (N. del T .: is the document number that the Indian Government grants to residents), as well as biometric data (facial recognition) and financial information. This is not a measure of economic warfare, at least not for these three particular applications.
Protests against China
For the past few weeks, the Indian government procurement website has banned the sale of products made in China, and required e-commerce giants Amazon.com and Walmart to display the “Country of Origin” label on products sold in your sites. In addition, local media reported that India was delaying the release of products imported from China in ports, especially electronic products.
In a release, TikTok from India stated:
We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications. TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government including the Chinese government.
We were invited to a meeting with concerned government officials to have an opportunity to respond to the allegations and offer relevant explanations. TikTok continues to comply with all information privacy and security requirements of Indian law and has not shared user information either in India or with any foreign government, including the Chinese government.
After the border conflict, many social network users repeated a sentiment against China through the label #AntiChina, but it is not a new phenomenon. This has been increasing since 2017, during the military confrontation in Doklam. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Indians blamed China for the situation and suggested to their fellow citizens to avoid the use of Chinese-origin goods and services for security or privacy concerns.
To join the #AntiChina sentiment line, Kondhawe-Dhawade, a village in the state of Maharastra in India, announced that it would carry out a boycott of products of Chinese origin, adding to the nationalist sentiment.
In June, Twitter momentarily blocked the account of Amul, an Indian dairy company, after it ran ads with the caption “Run away from the dragon?”, Hinting at the boycott of China by the Indian social media ecosystem.
– Amul.coop (@Amul_Coop) June 30, 2020
Keep that inventory. Amul, we talk about tea.
Amul news: New Delhi bans 59 Chinese apps!
Many Twitter users they questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's “PM Cares Fund” campaign to receive money from a Chinese-owned smartphone brand and stick with official @MyGov accounts on TikTok. Later, the TikTok MyGov account was deleted, and Modi also left the Weibo microblogging website.
Trade ban may have worse consequences for India
Diplomatic relations between Beijing and New Dehli have always been rather cold, but in recent years they began to relax in view of an increase in economic relations, as well as in imports and exports. Trade between India and China is estimated to represent some $ 90 billion, of which about $ 50 billion benefits China. Furthermore, India relies heavily on the chemical APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients) necessary for the manufacture of medicines and vaccines, and on the electronic components that feed the large manufacturing industry in India, imported from China.
On July 1, Nitin Gadkari, Indian minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, declared that the country would not allow Chinese companies to participate in road projects through any type of joint alliance. He added that Chinese investors would not be allowed to exercise in different sectors. The Indian Telecommunications Minister called on private telecom providers and other private companies to boycott all future agreements and equipment improvements related to China.
Mohan Guruswamy, economist and political analyst, said:
Nothing will come of this current call for a ban. If there is no escalation of events at the border, I see Modi taking a trip to China in December.
Nothing good will result from this general request for a ban. If things on the border don't get any bigger, I imagine Modi will be making a trip to China in December.
Deepak Jain, an industry veteran who chairs the Indian Auto Component Manufacturers Association, told Livemint:
These (imports) are components in which India currently does not have the manufacturing capability and probably because of the scale we have gone to China for sourcing. Hence there should be no knee jerk reactions to China.
These (imports) are components that, at present, India is not capable of manufacturing and it is probable that we have turned to China due to the great magnitude of which we are speaking. Therefore, there should be no hasty reactions against China.
Analysts cautioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should acknowledge that if India decides to take this path, the “chances of hitting China economically are slim, while the chances of hitting the economy itself are very high.”