India banned ByteDance Ltd’s viral short-video service TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps, citing threats to its sovereignty and security as relations between the world’s two largest populations worsened.
The unprecedented moratorium, announced days after border tensions in the Himalayas left 20 Indian soldiers dead, deals a blow to the most prominent names in Chinese technology. The banned services included e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s UC Web, social media leader Tencent’s WeChat and Baidu Inc’s map and translation platforms.
The move marks another attempt by India to reduce dependence on its neighbour’s products and hampers efforts by China’s largest corporations to expand beyond their own borders — a collective endeavour encapsulated by TikTok’s
phenomenal success abroad and particularly in India, ByteDance’s largest international market. The world’s most valuable startup responded by saying it will meet with Narendra Modi’s government to discuss the matter.
“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,” said Nikhil Gandhi, the company’s local chief, in a tweet on its official account.
In an emailed statement, TikTok also said that its “team of around 2,000 employees in India is committed to working with the government to demonstrate our dedication to user security and our commitment to the country overall.”
The ban threatens to ramp up tensions between two of Asia’s largest economies. As the border standoff that had simmered for nearly two months worsened, customs officials began halting clearances of industrial consignments coming in from China at major Indian ports and airports. The ban also includes smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp’s Mi Video Call and Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like service.
The unauthorised transmission and storage of Indian users’ data in overseas servers and “its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India” is a matter of deep and immediate concern requiring the emergency measures, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement. Representatives for Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu didn’t have immediate comment when contacted.
“China is strongly concerned about the relevant notice issued by the Indian side. We are checking on and verifying the situation,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. “We want to stress the Chinese government always asks Chinese businesses to abide by international rules and local laws and regulations in their business cooperation with foreign countries. The Indian government has a responsibility to uphold the legitimate and legal rights of the international investors including Chinese ones.”
Still, it’s unclear how the ban will be implemented as most of these apps already reside on users’ phones.