Freaky Friday: How are Chinese apps coming back despite stringent laws?
Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned over 250 apps owning to geopolitical tensions between India and China way back in June 2020. In a press release, the government had stated that these apps were a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of India.
The list included popular Chinese apps such as Tiktok, Shein, PUBG mobile among others. These apps were banned under Section 69A of the IT Act. Although PUBG mobile is a South Korean game, owning to the relations the company had with the Chinese company Tencent Games, the app slowly lost its market in India as well.
A majority of these apps are slowly entering the Indian subcontinent, but the laws still remain valid.
Laws pertaining to the ban of Chinese apps
These apps were blocked in the Indian subcontinent thanks to Sec 69 A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The law empowers the government to use its full discretion to block public access to any software that would violate any of the 6 reasons – sovereignty and integrity, defense of the country, security of the state, public order, relations with other states, or preventing the instigation of an offense related to the reasons stated above.
Loopholes in the law
In lieu of border tensions between two nuclear powers, India appears to have intensified economic warfare—which had further implications. Certainly, though there were potential cybersecurity concerns about TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, the national security justification didn’t quite square: TikTok is now banned, but another popular app owned by ByteDance, Resso, is currently allowed in India.
This leads to pertinent questions about the Indian government’s intent. What comes across through these analogies is that India’s chief concern isn’t data hoovering or Chinese app which are competing in the Indian subcontinent, but rather the cultural influence of these applications.
The ubiquity of Chinese apps is so apparent that most apps re-entered the Indian market with little or no changes.
When fans were mourning the loss of PUBG Mobile, the app made a comeback with Battleground mobile India. Similarly, fashion e-commerce site, Shein went out of business in India for 1.5 years and while its site is still not operational due to the ban, it re-entered into the market by being a seller of Amazon.
By being a part of Amazon Fashion, Shein was able to access the Indian market despite being blacklisted from the Indian market. Owing to the popularity of Shein among young girls, Amazon Prime Date dedicated a full page to mark the return of Shein on the e-commerce platform. However, it is important to note that it will only be launched as a seller on Amazon and not as a separate e-commerce platform like before.
PUBG Corp owned by parent company Krafton invested 100 million dollars to relaunch the game in India. To assuage privacy and data security concerns, PUBG promised to conduct to ensure that personally identifiable information of Indian users is safely managed. All this was done with an intent to build and foster a healthy gameplay environment, which will simultaneously drastically improve in-game content that is tailored to reflect local needs.
The effects of the ban
Most Indian tech company owners celebrated the ban and started to produce their apps to fill in the gap in the market. There was a huge influx of apps with similar features like the Chinese banned apps because most companies wanted to capitalize on the anti-China sentiment.
Owner of one such homegrown company Chingari, which has a user interface identical with Tik Tok, Naveen Tewari in an interview stated “Indian apps have benefitted from the Chinese ban, the government should promote homegrown brands instead of letting foreigners capitalize.”
Right after the Tik Tok ban Roposo, garnered over 75 million downloads, most people downloaded Indian apps in the spirit of nationalism. There were also a ton of fake apps which were introduced, most users described the scenario as a “sprouting place of scams”
With the return of the Chinese apps, we are yet to decipher the impact it would carry on Indian apps