Chinese search engine Baidu Search and social media platform Weibo were blocked by internet service providers and removed from Google and Apple app stores in India on Tuesday, the latest of the total 106 total Chinese apps shut down in the country in recent weeks.
Why it matters: High-profile tech bans are escalating political tensions between India and China. Though Baidu Search and Weibo aren’t very popular in India, they are a symbol of the country’s rejection of Chinese tech. The US and Japan are also considering bans against various Chinese apps, most prominently Bytedance-owned Tiktok.
Read more: Does India need China tech?
Details: The latest app bans followed a similar playbook to an earlier round: With little warning, Indian users are cut off from the platforms.
- The Indian government publicly released a list of 59 banned Chinese apps on June 29, and announced a second list of 47 Chinese apps on July 27. Wechat and Weibo were on the first list, along with Baidu Map and Baidu Translate.
- Though the July list has not been made public, the Times of India reported that it contains “clones and different versions of some of the original apps,” including Baidu Search.
- The ban has yet to be evenly applied. TechNode contributor Hamsini Hariharan was still able to see the Baidu app in the Indian Android app store and use the search engine, but the Weibo app was no longer listed.
- Baidu once had high hopes for its Indian market. CEO Robin Li visited the Indian Institute of Technology in January 2020 to discuss his desire to “partner with local institutions for innovation.”
- Launched in 2009 by Sina Corporation, Weibo has 500 million global registered users. Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi joined the social media site in 2015. His account, with over 244,000 followers, was deleted on July 1.
- Baidu, founded in Beijing in 2000, launched its India office in New Delhi in 2015. Baidu said it had 45 million monthly active users in India across all its products in September that year.
- Baidu Search hasn’t made the same headway in India as in China where it claimed 68.7% share of the Chinese search engine market as of February 2020. In India, Google is dominant with nearly 100% of the search engine market.
Context: India’s nearly 700 million internet users were once seen as the next frontier for Chinese tech but sentiment from the government towards China’s biggest tech companies has cooled as political tensions heat up.
- Tencent’s Wechat was blocked in India on July 27, stranding both Chinese expat and Indian users. TechNode previously reported that even virtual private networks (VPNs) could not guarantee access to the app.
- Tiktok was removed from Android and Apple app stores in India, its second-largest market, on June 30. Despite Tiktok’s popularity in India, the ban of Chinese apps followed rising nationalist sentiment in India.