Why Chinese apps are banned in India

by Tim Howard
chinese apps banned in india

The world was a happy place when Corona was just a beer and work from home was only a dream. But in 2020 the world as we knew it, changed. The internet did come up with various interesting and innovative ways to cope with the world wide lockdown and quarantine situation – but who knew things were going to get worse as the shady plot of 2020 advanced. 

Whether it is good or bad is still a matter of debate but one of the most important incidents of this year was the imposition of ban on a massive number of Chinese apps which include PUBG and TikTok! 

The reason why Chinese apps are banned in India is because of the Government’s belief that Chinese apps are impacting the sovereignty and integrity of India and also the security of the state is in question.

Why are Chinese apps banned in India?

Let’s begin from where it all started. In June 2020 MeITY or the Ministry of Information and Technology announced a ban on 59 Chinese apps following an unprovoked attack by the Chinese army. MeITY stated that these apps were a serious threat to “sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.” 

While many have welcomed this decision, personalities like Apar Gupta (Laywer and Executive Director of Internet Freedom Foundation) and Mishi Chowdhury (Laywer, technology and law) have argued that while geopolitics and cyber policies are intricately connected, there is a lack a transparency regarding the ban from the Indian Government’s side. 

47 more apps (mostly the clones of the previously banned apps) were prohibited by the Modi Government in order “ensure safety of Indian cyberspace”. By September 2020 a ban was again announced on 118 Chinese apps affecting the careers of not only the Tiktok influencers but also thousands of Indians who worked for apps like UC News. 

Here’s a list of some popular apps that unfortunately made the list,

PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s BattleGround) Mobile

chinese app pubg

Created by PUBG Corporation and distributed globally by Tencent Games, this Battle Royale Genre video game was introduced in 2018. Just when this online game was becoming a household name, MeITY stepped in and cancelled it, much to the relief of the Indian parents!

The game was banned under Section 69A of Information Technology Act as Tencent Game’s privacy policy provided very little clarity about the user’s data that it collects.  While they claimed that the “information is processed in a transparent manner”, what the company does with the information remains unclear.

Similar Games and Possibilities of PUBG’s return in India

According to reports by the Hindu BusinessLine, PUBG Corporations were negotiating deals with Indian companies like Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel in order to bring back the game in India. However, there has been no official declaration from PUBG Corporation’s side regarding their partnership with Indian companies or whether they are willing to come back to the Indian market again.

Interestingly the concerns regarding the security of the Indian Cyberspace is not the only reason that triggered the imposition of the ban. The game is in fact, banned in countries such as Israel, Iraq, Nepal and Jordan because of the amount of violence involved in it. Tencent had to come up with a milder version of the game and called it Game of Peace. The bloodshed was eliminated completely from the graphics and the killed characters were made to fly off after bidding adieu.

But since the game is not available for the 13 million active players in India, and there’s no hope for its comeback in the country anytime soon, here’s a list of alternate games that the Indian gamers can try,

  • Black Survival – With more than 600 weapon options and 22 adrenaline inducing areas to explore, this point-and-click real time survival game can be played by 10 players at a time.
  • Rules of Survival – This multiplayer battle royale online game provides a very similar gaming experience like PUBG’s. It is comprised of a 64 km area where users can team up with 4 gamers and battle with 300 players at a time.
  • Call of Duty: Mobile – This game has a huge market in India and serves as one of the favorite alternatives of PUBG. Freely available on Android and iOS platforms, this First Person Shooter Game has a battle royale mode and includes a massive battle ground, intriguing ammunition and Zombies. 
  • Indian Airforce: A Cut Above – Now this is an “Indian made” game with top-notch graphics and options for both single and multiplayers. Players can fly high-performance aircrafts and use interesting weapons to defeat the enemy squad in this game.
  • The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands – This is another game created by Indian developers and has become one of the most popular games in the country. Monsters, great weapons, beautifully designed landscapes – this game has everything needed for a perfect gaming experience.

The Ban on TikTok and How it Impacted Users in India

tiktok ban india

TikTok is one of the world’s biggest and most popular video sharing platform. Available in 39 languages and over 150 markets around the world, this app is hugely popular among artists, influencers and millennials. But it has its fair share of disadvantages as well. 

The app was first banned in India in 2019 (for a brief period of time) since there were concerns regarding pornographic content and predatory behaviors of some users. But this year as the political tension heightened between China and India, the government decided to ban it completely as there were various complains from different sources claiming that the app was “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.”(Scroll Explainer)

Since a significant number of brands and influencers depended on TikTok for business and revenue, MeITY’s decision did affected the careers of thousands. But while it was the most beloved and popular app of its kinds, TikTok was not the only video sharing platform in India. Below is a list of apps that eventually became huge hits in the Indian market this year.

  1. Instagram Reels: Owned by Facebook, Instagram is currently the world’s largest photo sharing app. It introduced the Reels feature this year which quickly become popular platform for video content. Users can create 15 seconds videos and share them on Instagram and other apps like Whatsapp and Facebook.
  2. Doobido: Created by SB Consultants, this app is great place to share trending videos. Content creators can work in their own niche and gain millions of followers overnight through this app.
  3. Dubsmash: This New York based application allows its users to lip sync with their favorite songs, add filters and effects and share the videos in whichever social network they like, just like TikTok!
  4. Vigo Video: This is another Indian alternative app for Tiktok that allows users to express themselves through short 15 seconds videos. It has filters that artificially enhances the skin tone and cute stickers that make the content attractive.
  5. Likee – Magic Video Maker & Community: This app features a massive library of dialogues that the users can lip sync with. It allows the users to edit, merge and crop videos according to their requirements.

Other Major Chinese Apps that were banned by the Indian Government 

WeChat 

Of the 224 Chinese apps that were banned this year, one of the major names was WeChat. Apart from being a messaging app, it also had features like newsstand and mobile wallet. It therefore, affected the Chinese who are currently living, working or even studying in India. 

UC Browser

With more than 50 crore downloads, UC was the most popular browser for android phones in India. MeITY decided to block this app as well since it threatened the privacy and security of Indian users. Although, other China based browsers such as Mozilla and Chrome continue to function in the country, one can also opt for the Indian alternatives such as the JioBrowser, Epic Privacy Browser, Omigo, Indian Browser and Bharat Browser. 

Club Factory 

Club Factory is a massive Chinese e-commerce platform for fashion and accessories nearly 100 million user and 40,000 local employees in India. After its ban regarding the country’s security concerns, the company decided to impose a ‘force majeure’ suspending payments (worth crores) of the Indian sellers. Shein and Romway which were also popular Chinese e-commerce sites, were banned along with Club Factory, costing thousands of Indian employees, their jobs. 

Shareit

This file transfer app was widely used by Indians (nearly 400 million users) until it was banned on June 29th this year. the best alternates of the app right now are Files By Google, Send Anywhere, Superbeam, JioSwitch, SFT and ShareAll.

Apps like CamScanner, Helo and Weibo also made the banned apps’ list. While some of these apps may continue to exist on a user’s cell phone devices, their latest upgrades are currently unavailable on Google Play as well as Apple Store. 

Though the ban did result in severe loss of advertising revenue and largely impacted the careers of several thousand Indians, ours is not the only country that is trying to block out these apps. The Chinese regime has quite a reputation for notorious activities and cyberspace and using technology companies for espionage services. 

With the ban, India’s message to the Chinese Government therefore, has been made loud and clear that the country is willing to go to extreme extents in order to safeguard the Indian Digital Market. 

Aliexpress

A major blow to e-commerce in India was the ban on the world’s most popular e-commerce app from China, Aliexpress. Aliexpress is the major e-commerce platform that has been banned, but the B2B portal Alibaba still is in the green list.

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