So now, it is not only India that has been banning apps that have originated from China. In retaliation to armed skirmishes in the border they share with China, India has banned the use of Chinese apps such as the ubiquitous Tiktok and WeChat in July. This move from India must have been quite successful as lately, US President Donald Trump has also made threats and in fact, already issued executive orders for the country’s app vendors to band the use of Chinese apps with the American mobile phone public.
It may seem like the President is banning the use of these Chinese apps in the middle of the trade war between the two countries, USA and China. Is this actually the cause of the ban? In the case of India, it was quite obvious that Tiktok and 59 other apps from China have been banned as a sort of retaliation as the army of both countries figured in deadly encounters in June. India cited some provisions in their Information technology Act as reasons for their action, although everyone knows the military reason is more believable. Besides, India happens to be the biggest market of Tiktok outside China, so even though the country made not be that big as a source of revenue for these Chinese companies, the fact that the market is the fastest growing and revenues were supposed to steadily increase as more Indian get richer and the country’s digital advertising market is also continually expanding should hurt China a little.
So, going back to the US, is the “trade war” the only reason for the country to also turn its back on Chinese apps?
What is the real reason?
So while the more popular reason would be the trade war indeed, there have also been increased concerns that the Chinese government, in coordination with the Chinese Communist Party, may be using the apps to spy on other countries. Even if this is to be disproven, there are also concerns regarding private Chinese companies acting Big Brother-y on its consumers even outside China. The Chinese may be used to that already, but data prsecurity and privacy are still huge issues in the USA.
The executive orders argue TikTok and WeChat should be banned from the U.S. market due to national security concerns. Yet on the surface neither appear to touch on traditional issues of national security, such as access to classified information on weapons or intelligence systems. Instead, the concern is primarily around data security and data privacy.
But then, Chinese companies should not really be shocked by the treatment they get from foreign governments. After all, if Apple were to be believed, the Chinese government is actually one of the biggest requestors of apps to be unusable in their country.
According to Apple, China accounted for nearly three quarters of the takedown requests between July 2018 and June 2019, and 85% of the apps removed from Apple’s App Store during that time period. The “vast majority” relate to pornography, gambling, and illegal content, Apple says. Google’s Play Store is not available in China.
An inconvenient matter
President Trump has also demanded for WeChat to be banned in the US, which should be a huge inconvenience to Apple users as Chinese citizens living in the US use the app a lot to communicate and perform other transactions (e.g., sending money) to their family and friends in China. So there is a possibility that Chinese in the US and Chinese-Americans may drop their Apple gadgets in favor of other devices that would allow them to use WeChat.
“Because WeChat has become a daily necessity in China, integrating functions such as messaging, payment, e-commerce, social networking, news reading, and productivity, if this is the case, we believe that Apple’s hardware product shipments in the Chinese market will decline significantly,” Kuo claimed.
Indian apps on the advantage
Because of the Chinese ban app in India, there has been increased business for local app developers offering alternatives to Tiktok and other popular Chinese apps that have been banned, such as as UC Browser, ShareIT, and WeChat.
According to Sensor Tower, an app market intelligence company, Roposo, Xiaomi’s Zili and New York-based Dubsmash saw combined downloads increase by 155% in the three weeks following the blocking of TikTok compared to the preceding three weeks. “These three apps have the highest lifetime downloads out of all TikTok alternatives on India’s App Store and Google Play,” it reported on July 23.
VPNs are also smiling
Another business that could have this ban on Chinese apps work to their advantage are VPNs. Since their product allows users to bypass security protocols and bans, many Chinese users are expected to use VPNs on their phones so that they can continue using the banned apps.
Indeed, ExpressVPN’s website saw a 10% week-over-week increase in traffic following the U.S. government’s announcement of a potential TikTok ban. The VPN service recorded similar trends in Japan and Australia, where it saw a 19% and 41% WoW increase in traffic respectively after the governments said they might block TikTok.
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