India banning Chinese apps effective way to impose costs on China for its actions at border: Expert

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Published: July 3, 2020 2:02 PM

The ban also comes in the backdrop of the current stand-off along the Line of Actual control in eastern Ladakh with Chinese troops.

India on Monday banned 59 apps with Chinese linksIndia on Monday banned 59 apps with Chinese links

India’s decision to ban Chinese apps seems to be an effective way to impose costs on China for its actions at the border and inhibit its ability to exert influence and access information inside the country, a well-known American expert on South Asia has said.

India on Monday banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including the hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, for engaging in “activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order”.

The ban also comes in the backdrop of the current stand-off along the Line of Actual control in eastern Ladakh with Chinese troops.

“I think the Indian government was looking for ways to respond to Chinese provocations at the LAC (Line of Actual Control) and they settled on hitting China in the technology sector, where there were already mounting concerns about Chinese espionage and national security threats,” Jeff Smith, South Asia Research Fellow at the prestigious Heritage Institute think-tank said.

There are some reservations in the US that this could bleed into a broader economic nationalism that could be used to justify greater restrictions on trade and investment, or be wielded against US firms, he noted.

“But if this is a targeted measure toward China based on national security considerations, it would seem to be an effective way to impose costs on China for its actions at the border,” Smith said.

The move, he added, has already received an endorsement from US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

He highlighted the long-term benefits China derives from these firms like getting access to users data in India.

“In terms of impact, I think the debate has been excessively focused on the short-term implications for the Chinese firms’ revenue, which are modest. But short-term revenue isn’t the principal value China derives from these firms expanding their presence in India: they crave users, subscribers, and data,” Smith said.

“This carries longer-term economic benefits, in terms of valuation, marketing, and research and development. But, more to the point, it creates a treasure trove of data on Indian citizens that, according to China’s national security laws, can be accessed by Chinese security services upon request,” he said in response to a question.

“Over the long term, depriving China of this valuable commodity will inhibit its ability to exert influence and access information inside India. And Beijing has little recourse to respond since it’s already effectively blocked many Indian IT firms from establishing a major presence inside China,” Smith said.

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