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India bans Chinese apps: how can this deter other nations as cybersecurity problems develop

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The Indian government’s decision to ban 59 Chinese mobile applications, including the popular TikTok, WeChat and Helo, will have a snowball effect on the international push of soft power in Beijing under the “Digital Silk Road” program. Although countries with an active user base of Chinese applications do not immediately follow suit, Indian action – an apparent retaliation for the border confrontation in Ladakh – will launch the process of rethinking their involvement in terms of national security, analysts said. “I will not be surprised if what India has done will translate into broader questioning of Chinese applications. Something similar could happen elsewhere as more general concerns are expressed in other countries,” a said Ashok Kantha, former Indian ambassador to China and director of the Institute for Chinese Studies. One of the ironies of Digital Silk Road is China’s attempts to take advantage of free media regulation in democratic countries while blocking foreign apps and websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and Indian websites, including newspaper websites, are also banned in China.

India has managed to spark debate against Belt and Road – President Xi Jinping’s pet program to boost global influence through connectivity infrastructure – raising objections since 2017 and refusing China’s request to launch it in the country. This led Malaysia to cancel and then restructure a large Chinese-backed rail project, and more countries demanded price discounts from Chinese companies on infrastructure projects. “We took a leading position by anticipating on the curve. Many of India’s concerns have become common concerns and perceptions about the BIS over the past three years, “said Kantha.

Chinese apps are usually provided with mobile phones made in China. In India, they control most of the market. Banning these apps will seriously affect their sales and open up new market segments for Samsung and other brands, in addition to some low-end phones made in India, which has the highest number of users of the platform. short video form, TikTok, with 120 million. This is followed by the United States with almost 40 million, Turkey with 28 million, Russia with 24 million, Mexico with 20 million, Brazil with 18 million and Pakistan with 12 million.

WeChat, similar to WhatsApp, has not had much impact in India, but it has enormous potential. WeChat Pay, the transaction platform within the social media application, is available in 40 countries and in 12 different currencies other than the Chinese yuan. “The Chinese ban on Google, Facebook and other apps has created an ecosystem that has led to the creation of many successful Chinese apps. This could be an opportunity for application development in India, ”says Kunal Sinha, a consumer and media expert in Mumbai, who has spent many years in Shanghai. In contrast, Indian tech start-ups are funded by Chinese money, he said. “Developing new applications in India would require alternative sources of funding,” says Sinha.

It is an opportunity for Indian companies to delve into the non-tech sectors and make the most of the massive market that was suddenly made available by the ban on Chinese apps. The question is whether they will move quickly. In pronouncing the ban, the government declared that the claims were engaged in activities “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of India, the security of the state and of public order”.

Chinese apps like TikTok claim they don’t share Indian data with a foreign government, including China, but there are many concerns about cybersecurity. A disturbing aspect is the widespread use of Chinese brand mobile phones and their applications by security personnel in border / sensitive areas. Short video applications make certain situations and regions particularly vulnerable.

Beyond India, security threats from Chinese apps are widely felt in Europe, the United States, Australia, and parts of Asia. Several countries are closely examining Chinese exports of telecommunications equipment, fearing that they may contain malware and spyware.

TikTok has proven to be extremely popular with young Indians who want to express their creativity through short videos and has succeeded in creating a positive vision of China. The ban has created a void that cannot be immediately filled by YouTube operating at a different level.

Serious issues

The ban has raised questions about the inability of Indian companies to offer equally popular digital apps and platforms and to capture even a quarter of the Indian market, instead of allowing Chinese and American companies to control almost everything that. The Ministry of Information Technology’s ability to think long term and encourage companies to play an important role is also questioned.

For example, the ministry has always known that banned apps come preinstalled with Chinese phones. There has been virtually no attempt to create an appropriate ecosystem for the production of mobile phones, even if that meant seeking cooperation from South Korean companies. Indian apps have appeared on the scene to challenge the Chinese and gain market share. These include some launched by Jio de Reliance and several others deployed by technology companies under the brand names Mitron and Chingari, Samosa, InShorts and Myantra etc. But most of the top 10 Chinese apps have 10 to 50 times more users in India than their India counterparts.

One of the reasons for this is China’s ability to produce extremely user-friendly applications that encourage unsophisticated users to create and use content. The result is a user network that acts as a marketing mechanism for the application company. “Indians are known to adopt new technologies very quickly. But they’re not the best when it comes to creating digital media platforms, ”says Sinha. “In addition, considerable investment is required to continuously upgrade and market the platforms,” ​​he adds.

An important question whether the ban is just a non-military response to Chinese aggression at the border or part of a larger plan being worked out in the southern block of New Delhi. A long-term strategic program would involve encouraging Indian technology companies to offer new platforms and to enrich existing ones to take advantage of the market gap.

Together, the banned Chinese apps are known to have a total number of users exceeding 800 million, with one in three mobile phone users using at least one of them. The government has not banned certain popular Chinese apps, including AliExpress, TurboVPN, PUBG Mobile, PUBG Lite, MV Master, and App Lock. Is it because India does not consider them as security risks or simply forgotten?

And then?

Thousands of foreigners and many Chinese people in China use banned apps and websites by connecting through a virtual private network (VPN), which can make your online activities impossible to find. The Communist government has failed to control their almost booming growth.

It is quite possible that the VPN will become a widely used option in India, since a large population of Indians has become dependent on TikTok or uses Chinese applications simply because it is already downloaded on their mobile phones.

Currently, few people other than trying to access porn sites use a VPN in India. There are several VPN applications available on the Internet and many people suspect the motivations of companies that offer gifts without even gaining publicity.

Chinese companies may start distributing free VPN applications to retain customers, analysts said. The government may need to find a way to resolve what appears to be a new challenge.

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