China on Wednesday said it “firmly opposes” India’s “use of national security as an excuse” after New Delhi’s November 24 decision to ban 43 Chinese apps , which followed similar measures announced in June and September that barred 177 mostly Chinese apps amid continuing tensions along the border.
“India should immediately correct its discriminatory approach and avoid causing further damage to bilateral cooperation”, said Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
A separate statement from the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on Wednesday said China “firmly oppose[s] the Indian side’s repeated use of ‘national security’ as an excuse to prohibit some mobile apps with Chinese background.”
With Tuesday's ban , more than 200 Chinese apps, many owned by some of China’s biggest Internet firms, including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Sina and Bytedance, which once saw India as their biggest potential overseas market, are now no longer accessible in India. Tuesday’s move listed 43 mobile apps, including Alibaba-linked apps such as AliExpress and Alipay Cashier, citing threats to national security, integrity and sovereignty of India.
India blocked 59 apps in June and a further 118 in September, including Tencent’s WeChat, Bytedance’s popular TikTok app, Baidu, UC Browser, Sina Weibo and a number of gaming apps, such as PUBG and Rise of Kingdoms.
Mr. Zhao said China “expresses serious concerns over India’s claims” relating to the apps.
“For four times since June, India has imposed restrictions on smartphone apps with Chinese backgrounds under the pretext of national security,” he said. “These moves, in glaring violation of market principles and WTO rules, severely harm the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies. China firmly rejects them. The Chinese government always asks Chinese companies to observe international rules and local laws and regulations when doing business overseas. The Indian government has the responsibility to follow market principles and protect the lawful rights and interests of international investors including Chinese companies. China-India economic and trade cooperation, by nature, is mutually beneficial”.
Tuesday’s move came amid deadlocked talks to push disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), with both sides yet to agree on a plan to disengage and return to status quo prior to China’s multiple transgressions starting in May. While the Chinese State-run media hasn’t reported widely on the LAC transgressions, the app ban has been covered widely in the Chinese press, with calls for repercussions targeting Indian companies.
India has sought to signal clearly to China that trade and investment relations cannot continue as normal while the border situation remains tense. Delhi is of the view that Beijing has this summer violated multiple border agreements that both sides have broadly abided by for close to three decades.
The Chinese government, in contrast, has in public statements repeatedly called on India to delink the border from other aspects of the relationship - a stand that officials in India say is untenable unless China returns to the status quo on the borders.
“China and India are the opportunities of development to each other rather than threats,” the Chinese Embassy statement said. “Both sides should bring bilateral economic and trade relations back to the right path for mutual benefit and win-win results on the basis of dialogue and negotiation.”