Caixin
Sep 03, 2020 05:44 AM
BUSINESS & TECH

India Bans Alibaba’s Taobao, Ant’s Alipay While Tripling Forbidden List

In late June India announced an unprecedented ban of 59 Chinese apps on national security grounds
In late June India announced an unprecedented ban of 59 Chinese apps on national security grounds

India banned 118 more China-owned mobile applications in a further move to curb Chinese tech companies amid mounting tensions on the two Asian giants’ disputed border.

Some of China’s most popular apps are on the new restricted list released Wednesday by India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding’s Taobao, Ant Group’s widely used payment service Alipay, Tencent Holding’s popular game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or PUBG, and Baidu Inc.’s search service.

The banned apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India” as well as “security and public order,” the ministry said. The agency said it received complaints about the apps “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.”

India’s restriction of Chinese apps reflects strained relations between the two countries since April as disputes escalated on the border. In early June, clashes between Chinese and Indian troops turned into the first fatal conflict along the countries’ border in the Himalayas in more than four decades. More than 20 Indian and an undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers were killed in the incident.

In late June India announced an unprecedented ban of 59 Chinese apps on national security grounds, affecting ByteDance Ltd.’s popular short-video platform TikTok, Tencent’s WeChat and QQ Mail, as well as Alibaba’s UC Browser.

The apps were removed from local app stores after the announcement, and some of the existing services were blocked by local mobile carriers. In July, dozens more Chinese apps were barred for allegedly operating as “clones” of the previously banned apps.

In addition to the app bans, the Indian government in April revised its foreign direct investment policy to narrow the scope of eligible investors, a move analysts said mainly targets Chinese companies.

The two countries have held multiple rounds of high-level military talks but have yet to defuse the tensions. At a Tuesday press briefing, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused Indian troops of illegally crossing the Line of Actual Control in the western sector of the China-India boundary. Hua called the Indian side’s move “flagrant provocations” that again led to tensions. The previous day, the defense ministry in New Delhi said its soldiers were able to stop a push by Chinese troops to claim more ground in violation of existing agreements.

Alibaba reportedly put the brakes on new investments in India. The Chinese conglomerate is a key financial backer for some Indian unicorns like payment platform Paytm and food delivery service Zomato.

The latest app ban would be a blow to Tencent as its battle-royale game PUBG Mobile counts on India for more than a quarter of lifetime installs, according to research firm Sensor Tower. The game had more than 40 million monthly active users in July in India, analysts’ data showed.

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com).

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