- Experts believe that among the four types of
Chinese apps— economic apps, vanity apps, nuisance apps and ones used for Chinese propaganda — at least three can be pushed out of the market.
- They believe that for India to gain leverage, banning Chinese apps will be more favourable for the Indian economy than banning physical goods.
- According to Blaise Fernandes, fellow at Mumbai-based thinktank Gateway House, the Indian government is within its rights to ban apps that spread misinformation under Section 69A of the IT Act 2000.
The Indian app economy is valuable to China with more than 800 million smartphone users eager and willing to lap up content on their devices. Experts believe instead of boycotting physical goods — which would adversely impact India’s economy as well — focusing on the virtual and technology sector would yield better results. Especially, when it comes to apps.
Blaise Fernandes, a fellow with Mumbai-based thinktank Gateway House, explains that there are essentially four types of
Chinese apps functioning in India — apps with economic viability, vanity apps, apps with nuisance value and, finally, those used to push Chinese propaganda.
Apart from apps with an economic edge — like payments apps that attract investment and provide employment— others can be done away with without any repercussion for India while also having a heavy impact on the valuations of Chinese companies.
“Ideally, an economic boycott should be such that it has a disproportionate effect on the other side, so rather than stopping the purchase of plastic toys or drugs from China, we should aiming for higher-value industries and that’s where the technology and virtual sector comes in,” explained Amit Bhandari from Gateway House.
Vanity apps that hold value for Chinese companies
“Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are part of the digital ‘Silk Route’ of China… Any disruption in the Indian market is going to have an impact on the valuations of these companies,” said Fernandes. He explained that if vanity apps disappear from the Indian market then the daily lives of Indians are not going to bear an impact.
Citing the example of TikTok, he said that 30% of the app’s users are Indian and 10% of its revenue comes from India.
Blocking apps in the interest of national security
The second category of apps that can disappear is nuisance apps — apps used to create disharmony and misinformation. Blaise believes that the government is well within its rights to use Section 68A of the IT Act 2000 to block such apps from the market.
In light of the India-China skirmish along the Line of Actual Control (LAC),
Section 69A gives the Indian government to block access to apps by the public in the “interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order for preventing incitement.”
These apps can be banned immediately on the grounds of causing mayhem, spreading misinformation or rumours, and laying on sectoral violence.
Chinese propaganda machines
The final category of apps that don’t serve Indian interests is those that have investments from the Chinese government.
“There’s very distinction between the Chinese government and Chinese companies,” he explained. Even the US has classified a number of Chinese television stations, like People’s Daily etc, as Chinese propaganda machines and not as media companies.
Rather than boycotting physical goods — which would also be harmful to the Indian economy — boycotting virtual goods would give India a bigger advantage on the global stage. Anything India does to the app economy will have an impact on the valuation of Chinese companies worldwide.
Here are the top 10 popular Chinese apps in India in 2020