India Bans 54 More Chinese Apps Over National Security Concerns

NEW DELHI—The Indian government has issued an order banning 54 Chinese mobile applications that it says constitute a threat to the country’s national security, according to local reports. The move is the latest in a series of similar bans instituted amid a protracted border dispute between the two sides. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued a Feb. 13 statement saying that the 54 applications could collect sensitive user data through phone cameras and microphones for espionage and surveillance activities. “India is now taking cybersecurity more seriously because of the increasing digitization of the economy and the threat such Chinese apps, as well as Chinese telecom equipment, pose,” Pathikrit Payne, a New Delhi-based research consultant in geopolitical and strategic affairs, told The Epoch Times. India started banning Chinese apps after a June 2020 bloody skirmish with Chinese forces in the disputed Himalayan border region in which 20 Indian soldiers died. Since then, the country has banned 267 applications including TikTok, Baidu, and WeChat Work. The additional applications banned this week range from mobile games to video chats and selfie camera apps from Chinese companies such as Tencent, Alibaba, and NetEase. Some of the apps are clones or rebrands of apps banned in previous orders, according to local media reports. The most popular app banned by the order is Free Fire, a battle royale shooter game owned by Singapore-based gaming giant Sea. The company’s largest shareholder is Chinese tech giant Tencent. India’s concerns over security risks posed by Chinese technology echo that of U.S. officials and experts who have warned that such applications could be used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for spying, citing laws in the country that compel firms to cooperate with intelligence agencies when requested to do so. James Lee, a former hedge fund manager who has two decades of experience investing in the gaming industry in the United States and Hong Kong, previously told The Epoch Times that data collected from Chinese apps feed into artificial intelligence (AI) programs developed by the regime. “Those are games and apps that have been actually collecting a lot of metadata of citizens around the world, and then they feed it into the CCP’s AI machine. And we all know AI is mostly constrained by the data: The more data you have, the stronger the AI is,” Lee said. “Once China controls the metadata as well as the channels themselves, they are able to tweak the human psyche, or just what people are thinking about, via cyberwar.” Members of the Working Journalists of India (WJI) hold placards urging citizens to remove Chinese apps and to stop using Chinese products during a demonstration against the Chinese newspaper Global Times in New Delhi on June 30, 2020. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images) Apps Under Disguise Abhishek Darbey, a research associate at New Delhi-based think tank the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, told The Epoch Times that many of the apps that the Indian government has banned since 2020 were relaunched or renamed for the Indian market under different companies. He pointed to the Chinese connection in the banned Free Fire gaming app owned by Sea. The company was founded in Singapore by Chinese-born founders who later became Singaporean citizens. While some may not be aware of this connection, Free Fire’s case “suggests that China uses all possible loopholes to penetrate the Indian market because of its huge consumer population.” Representatives for Sea didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time. The presence of Chinese apps in India provides the CCP with an advantage, allowing it to explore the Indian market and simultaneously keep the Indian population exposed to espionage, while the Chinese market remains closed to foreign mobile apps, according to Darbey. “China doesn’t entertain foreign social media applications or any other mobile app in their land, and they do this in order to keep themselves safer against any form of surveillance or espionage activities,” he said. In China, a host of Western websites and platforms have been blocked, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google. “The CCP doesn’t want its Chinese population to exchange any form of communication with the rest of the world. All of these regulations have been followed very strictly in China imposed by the CCP, therefore the Party guarantees their internal security without giving any chance of information exchange of any kind,” Darbey said. Both India and China are expected to remain as the major markets for mobile apps offering large growth opportunities for all the participants in the ecosystem, according to a 2020 market report published on Grand View Research. While China wants to participate in and control the burgeoning Indian market, it wants to keep its domestic market exclusively to itself, according to Darbey. Follow Venus Upadhayaya repo

India Bans 54 More Chinese Apps Over National Security Concerns

NEW DELHI—The Indian government has issued an order banning 54 Chinese mobile applications that it says constitute a threat to the country’s national security, according to local reports. The move is the latest in a series of similar bans instituted amid a protracted border dispute between the two sides.

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued a Feb. 13 statement saying that the 54 applications could collect sensitive user data through phone cameras and microphones for espionage and surveillance activities.

“India is now taking cybersecurity more seriously because of the increasing digitization of the economy and the threat such Chinese apps, as well as Chinese telecom equipment, pose,” Pathikrit Payne, a New Delhi-based research consultant in geopolitical and strategic affairs, told The Epoch Times.

India started banning Chinese apps after a June 2020 bloody skirmish with Chinese forces in the disputed Himalayan border region in which 20 Indian soldiers died. Since then, the country has banned 267 applications including TikTok, Baidu, and WeChat Work.

The additional applications banned this week range from mobile games to video chats and selfie camera apps from Chinese companies such as Tencent, Alibaba, and NetEase. Some of the apps are clones or rebrands of apps banned in previous orders, according to local media reports.

The most popular app banned by the order is Free Fire, a battle royale shooter game owned by Singapore-based gaming giant Sea. The company’s largest shareholder is Chinese tech giant Tencent.

India’s concerns over security risks posed by Chinese technology echo that of U.S. officials and experts who have warned that such applications could be used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for spying, citing laws in the country that compel firms to cooperate with intelligence agencies when requested to do so.

James Lee, a former hedge fund manager who has two decades of experience investing in the gaming industry in the United States and Hong Kong, previously told The Epoch Times that data collected from Chinese apps feed into artificial intelligence (AI) programs developed by the regime.

“Those are games and apps that have been actually collecting a lot of metadata of citizens around the world, and then they feed it into the CCP’s AI machine. And we all know AI is mostly constrained by the data: The more data you have, the stronger the AI is,” Lee said. “Once China controls the metadata as well as the channels themselves, they are able to tweak the human psyche, or just what people are thinking about, via cyberwar.”

Epoch Times Photo
Members of the Working Journalists of India (WJI) hold placards urging citizens to remove Chinese apps and to stop using Chinese products during a demonstration against the Chinese newspaper Global Times in New Delhi on June 30, 2020. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)

Apps Under Disguise

Abhishek Darbey, a research associate at New Delhi-based think tank the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, told The Epoch Times that many of the apps that the Indian government has banned since 2020 were relaunched or renamed for the Indian market under different companies.

He pointed to the Chinese connection in the banned Free Fire gaming app owned by Sea. The company was founded in Singapore by Chinese-born founders who later became Singaporean citizens. While some may not be aware of this connection, Free Fire’s case “suggests that China uses all possible loopholes to penetrate the Indian market because of its huge consumer population.”

Representatives for Sea didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

The presence of Chinese apps in India provides the CCP with an advantage, allowing it to explore the Indian market and simultaneously keep the Indian population exposed to espionage, while the Chinese market remains closed to foreign mobile apps, according to Darbey.

“China doesn’t entertain foreign social media applications or any other mobile app in their land, and they do this in order to keep themselves safer against any form of surveillance or espionage activities,” he said.

In China, a host of Western websites and platforms have been blocked, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

“The CCP doesn’t want its Chinese population to exchange any form of communication with the rest of the world. All of these regulations have been followed very strictly in China imposed by the CCP, therefore the Party guarantees their internal security without giving any chance of information exchange of any kind,” Darbey said.

Both India and China are expected to remain as the major markets for mobile apps offering large growth opportunities for all the participants in the ecosystem, according to a 2020 market report published on Grand View Research.

While China wants to participate in and control the burgeoning Indian market, it wants to keep its domestic market exclusively to itself, according to Darbey.


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Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.