Following a border clash between India and China over a disputed land in Leh, Ladakh region, India has banned dozens of Chinese apps. This ban has also possibly derailed a $1 billon India expansion plan of China’s ByteDance, while also sparking an uproar from its hugely popular video app TikTok.
Soon after the announcement, TikTok was blocked in Google and Apple app stores, later in the day TikTok’s already downloaded versions also stopped showing any kind of videos. With more than 600 million downloads, India has accounted for 30 percent of TikTok’s total 2 billion downloads till date. So, last year ByteDance hired several senior level executives with a plan to invest as much as $1 billion in India, which happened to be its top growth market.
However, the government didn’t name China, or cite the border clashes, an app analytics firm said all the 59 apps incidentally originates from China, which also include Alibaba’s UC Browser, Tencent’s WeChat.
On the other hand, TikTok said in a statement, India had invited the organization to respond to the ban and submit all the necessary clarifications, adding that it complies with all data security and privacy requirements. It did not comment on the future of its expansion plan.
According to a lawyer, who advises a Chinese company,“If this is not rolled back, these companies would be constrained to cut back their operations in India, potentially resulting in a loss of employment.”
China’s foreign ministry said it was “strongly concerned” about the decision, and the Chinese embassy in New Delhi said it suspected the move violated the rules laid by WTO.
On the other hand, this is not the first time TikTok has been banned in the country. Last year TikTok was banned briefly as a state court said, TikTok encouraged pornography, which eventually costed the company as much as $15 million a month.
Several Indian lawyers said the chances of success of a legal challenge this time were slim given the government had invoked national security concerns, meaning the Chinese companies can only hope to lobby India to reverse the decision.