India Launches New Round of Bans on Chinese Apps

The Indian government on Monday has reportedly banned 54 more Chinese internet applications on the grounds that they pose “security threats.”

A statement from India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said the body had received a recommendation from India’s Interior Ministry to ban 54 Chinese smartphone apps under an emergency provision proposed under section 69A of the Information Technology Act. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will officially issue a notice to ban these applications in India.

The reports point out that the Chinese apps banned in India this time mainly relate to tools, games and video chatting, and the enterprises include include major tech companies Tencent, Alibaba and NetEase.

The Indian media specifically mentioned the mobile game app “Free Fire” on the banned list. Free Fire is a shooting game of escape and survival, which was launched by Singapore-based tech group Sea in 2017. Tencent is the largest shareholder of Sea. In January, Tencent reduced its shareholding in Sea from 21.3% to 18.7%, eventually reducing its voting rights to less than 10%.

Data show that Free Fire is one of the most popular smartphone games in the world, with more than 1 billion downloads on Google Play. In addition, this game is very popular in India, where it was the highest-earning smartphone game in the third quarter of 2021.

Since June 2020, the Indian government has banned about 224 Chinese applications, including TikTok and WeChat.

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In addition to banning Chinese apps, the Indian government recently announced another ban. According to a report in India’s Business Today on February 10, the Ministry of Civil Aviation in India said that the Directorate General of Foreign Trade announced it would ban the import of foreign drones from February 9. However, the import of drones for research and development, national defense and security purposes is not within the scope of the ban, but it still needs to be approved. In addition, the import of drone components is not affected. 

Many Indian media outlets assume that this move is intended to respond to Indian prime minister Modi’s “Made in India” policy to promote local production.