China on Tuesday said it was “seriously concerned” by India’s move to block 59 Chinese apps, which it described as “a deliberate interference in practical cooperation” between the two countries.
China’s State media warned the move would bring economic repercussions including affecting outbound Chinese investment into India.
In separate statements issued by China’s Foreign Ministry in Beijing and its Embassy in New Delhi, the Chinese government called on India to review the move.
“I want to stress that the Chinese government consistently asks Chinese enterprises to abide by international rules and local laws and regulations when conducting external cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, expressing “strong concern”.
“The Indian government has the responsibility to protect the legitimate rights and interests of international investors in India, including Chinese businesses, in accordance with market principles,” Mr Zhao said. “Practical cooperation between China and India is mutually beneficial. Deliberate interference in such cooperation will not serve the interests of the Indian side.”
In a separate statement, the Chinese Embassy in Delhi said it was “seriously concerned with and firmly opposed to such action”.
“India’s measure, selectively and discriminatorily aims at certain Chinese apps on ambiguous and far-fetched grounds, runs against fair and transparent procedure requirements, abuses national security exceptions, and suspects of violating the WTO rules. It also goes against the general trend of international trade and E-commerce, and is not conducive to consumer interests and the market competition in India,” the statement said.
Also read: Full list of apps banned
The Embassy said the ban “will affect not only the employment of local Indian workers who support these apps, but also the interests of Indian users and the employment and livelihoods of many creators and entrepreneurs.”
“We expect India acknowledges the mutually beneficial nature of China-India economic and trade cooperation, and urge the Indian side to change its discriminatory practices, maintain the momentum of China-India economic and trade cooperation, treat all investments and service providers equally, and create an open, fair and just business environment, while bearing in mind the fundamental interests of both sides and the overall interests of bilateral relations,” the statement added said.
Chinese media and social media widely discussed the ban on Tuesday. China restricts a number of foreign apps and websites in the mainland, and among those blocked are WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
In an editorial, the Communist Party-run Global Times slammed what it said was “a lacklustre explanation for the nonsensical move”.
“If India’s sovereignty can be damaged by a handful of apps, just how vulnerable is it?” the paper said. “Some anti-China groups and radical individuals in India have been calling for a boycott of Chinese products after the recent deadly border clash. Yet it was not long before Indians realised that turning nationalist rhetoric into action is more difficult, as there are no available and affordable alternatives to Chinese-made products such as smartphones, chemicals, automotive components and many other items… It seems that not only has the Modi government failed to rein in the rising nationalism among Indians, it has also yielded to domestic pressure and even encouraged such a boycott to escalate.”
The newspaper said it had conducted a survey of experts who “predicted Chinese overseas direct investment (ODI) into India will drop sharply in 2020, with two experts forecasting a more than 50 %.”
“Bad feelings go both ways, and the chance for China-India relationship to pick up in the short-term is slim. Chinese investors are on the edge with risk-aversion instinct kicking in,” Qian Feng, director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, was quoted as saying by the paper. He added that the coming year would not only see a 50% fall in Chinese investment into India, but would be “a turning point” in economic relations.