India Strikes again, this time on Tencent’s PUBG and Other Apps

The Indian government continues its purge of apps made by or related to Chinese companies. Back in June, it already banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok.

Threat to Cyberspace

India’s IT Ministry rationalized the decision as “a targeted move to ensure safety, security, and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.” The apps banned today consist of search engine Baidu,  business collaboration suite WeChat Work, cloud storage service Tencent Weiyun, and the game Rise of Kingdoms. However, PUBG is the most popular among these apps, with more than 40 million monthly active users.

On Wednesday, India announced the ban on another 118 mobile apps, as the country stepped up the pressure on Chinese technology companies after a clash with its neighbor at the border.

The ban was declared a day after a senior Indian official stated that troops were deployed on four strategic hilltops after what New Delhi referred to as an attempted Chinese incursion along a disputed Himalayan border.

Tencent refused to comment on the ban and no immediate response came from the Chinese embassy in New Delhi.

India’s technology ministry claimed that the apps were a threat to India’s sovereignty and security.

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These “apps collect and share data in a surreptitious manner and compromise personal data and information of users that can have a severe threat to the security of the state,” the ministry said in a statement.

Another “Digital Strike”!

The ban is a big blow to Tencent in India whose PUBG, a battle royale game, is a major hit in the country. India ranks Number 1 in the world in terms of PUBG downloads, consisting of roughly 175 million installs, or 24 percent of the total, according to the apps analytics firm, SensorTower.

Last month India banned 59 Chinese apps, including ByteDance’s hit video-sharing app TikTok, Tencent’s WeChat, and Alibaba’s UC Browser, in June.

That move, which India’s technology minister referred to as a “digital strike”, followed a brawl with Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border site in June when 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives.

Tensions have simmered between New Delhi and Beijing ever since and sources told Reuters last month of another ban of 47 mostly clone apps.

India’s prohibitions have hindered the business operations of various Chinese companies in India. They have also forced Alibaba, a substantial backer of Indian tech startups, to put on hold all plans to invest in the country for at least six months, according to a report in August.

Tech analysts say there is a risk the abrupt transformation in the business environment will affect Chinese investment more generally.

“The app bans not only give a negative signal to Chinese firms and investors already in India, but even those waiting for a favorable climate to invest in India may now back off now,” said Atul Pandey, a partner at law firm Khaitan & Co. who has advised many Chinese clients.