Chinese state media on Tuesday warned that India’s ban on 59 Chinese smartphone apps, including the popular TikTok messaging application, would prove counterproductive for India because the ban “dealt a severe blow to the confidence of Chinese investors,” and Indian entrepreneurs rely heavily on Chinese investments.
China’s state-run Global Times sneered that India’s government could offer only a “lackluster explanation for the nonsensical move,” so the TikTok ban makes India’s “political crackdown” on Chinese imports “open and blatant.”
“If India’s sovereignty can be damaged by a handful of apps, just how vulnerable is it?” the Global Times asked sarcastically.
As it has done in response to every element of India’s growing Boycott China movement, the Chinese Communist paper argued the ban on smartphone apps would end up hurting Indian businesses and consumers more because “India is in no position to cause harm to China’s juggernaut economy.”
The Global Times argued that only radical Indian nationalists were truly interested in the self-defeating boycotts since sensible Indians know “there are no available and affordable alternatives to Chinese-made products.” It warned that by attempting to extend the boycott from physical consumer goods into software and Internet services, India is “sending a very negative signal” to Chinese investors, and could ultimately anger the very peaceful and restrained Chinese government into crushing India’s economy to teach it a lesson.
India banned TikTok, WeChat, Weibo, and other Chinese apps on Monday, citing the security risks of using compromised software that spies on users and sends data back to foreign controllers. The ban was not explicitly linked to India’s boycott of Chinese goods after a violent clash along the India-China border in mid-June, and did not directly mention China at all, although all 59 of the banned apps are of Chinese origin.
India is one of the largest world markets for the TikTok video platform. Most Indian users appear supportive of their government’s action, posting farewell messages over the weekend and telling fans how to find them on other messaging services. One of India’s most influential TikTok users, actress Ashnoor Kaur, told her 3.2 million followers she was “really happy” with the ban and “totally in support of it.”
There were some critics, however, including another Indian actor named Gunjan Utreja who complained that banning TikTok would harm Indian creators who use the popular platform to spread their work to an audience of millions.
“Today you are celebrating the downfall of all those who had built a brand for themselves by sheer hard work, without any GODFATHER. So next time when you ridicule anyone just ask yourself what would you do if you woke up to the news that your business doesn’t exist anymore,” Utreja complained.
One of India’s biggest TikTok stars, a former lawyer who uses only the name “Geet” and has about ten million followers for her videos on motivation, relationships, and learning “American English,” told the BBC she was “completely taken off guard” by the ban because creating a dozen short videos a day has been her “full-time job” for the past year.
Geet — who was born in India, raised in Seattle, suffered a spinal injury that left her confined to a wheelchair, and currently lives in Delhi — said she found TikTok to be an ideal platform for spreading positive messages and teaching Indians about American language and culture in a “snappy, fun, and educative” way. She and other creators depend on advertising revenue for their income.
“Don’t worry. Don’t lose courage. Let’s wait. We think the issue will be resolved and we will meet again. Don’t lose hope and don’t do anything drastic,” she told her followers in the last video she uploaded before the ban went into effect.
Also harmed considerably is TikTok’s creator, China’s ByteDance corporation, which has a billion-dollar plan to expand operations in India. Indian users accounted for about 30 percent of TikTok’s two billion downloads until Tuesday when the banned app abruptly vanished from app stores and stopped displaying videos in India.
TikTok executives said on Wednesday they are working with the Indian government to assuage its security concerns and get the ban lifted, but ByteDance employees in India have told reporters they are concerned about losing their jobs.
“Today, it is a staple and reality for TikTok users even in remote cities, towns and villages across the country. Empowered individual creators have become the most sought-after for digital marketing campaigns. Small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs have been able to realise their growth ambitions and dreams by reaching out to thousands of potential customers and consumers on a daily basis, through the platform,” TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said on Wednesday.
Somewhat proving India’s point about Chinese government control of nominally “private” companies, the Chinese Foreign Ministry played hardball by expressing its “strong concern” about the ban and hinting it might bring a case against India before the World Trade Organization (WTO).