The border tension between India and China is playing out in the online space as well, where patriotic Indians are calling for a ban on using Chinese devices and even China-made apps on mobile phones.
What started as a series of Whatsapp forwards asking Indians to uninstall Chinese apps and refrain from buying Chinese goods, has resulted in a Jaipur-based app developer developing an app to help identify and uninstall apps with a Chinese origin.
OneTouch AppLabs has developed an app called "Remove China Apps", whose sole purpose is as its name suggests. The app is a simple tool to identify and help remove apps that have a Chinese origin. This app has been downloaded and installed more than 1 million times so far in just a few days of its launch.
Here's a list of some of the apps that users have been uninstalling on their phones. Many users are even using Chinese-origin branded phones as well, where uninstalling some of the apps may have serious performance issues with the phone itself.
As you can see from the list, some of the apps that are being uninstalled are very popular in India such as TikTok, PUBG Mobile, and UC Browser. What do users stand to gain or lose by removing these apps?
This whole call to boycott Chinese goods and uninstall Chinese apps has far-reaching consequences. While the intention is to cause some sort of economic distress to Chinese manufacturers and app developers owing to the border tension, in reality with a globalised economy it is quite difficult to completely isolate from anything Chinese.
While revenues from the Chinese-origin apps do get repatriated to China, there are ecosystems that are dependent on these apps in India as well. For instance, gamers have made PUBG Mobile into a source of income by live-streaming their gameplay. Many Indian websites use UC browser as a means of information dissemination. And then there are the growing number of TikTok "influencers" in India who depend on the app.
As for Chinese-origin goods, things get a little more complicated. Many of the phone brands have established assembling units in India that provide employment to hundreds of Indians.
Some of the car companies have invested heavily in India and are making cars here – such as MG Motor India, General Motors (for export) and Great Wall Motors, besides a number of two-wheeler brands that depend on Chinese-origin components.
The auto industry and electronics industry in India is heavily dependent on components from China. Completely cutting off everything Chinese at the moment could hurt Indian consumers quite badly.