Chinese super-app WeChat has officially stopped operations in India after being banned by the country over privacy fears.
“Pursuant to Indian law, we are unable to offer you WeChat at this time. “We value each of our users, and data security and privacy are of utmost importance to us,” said a notice sent by WeChat on Saturday to a number of Indian users, who found themselves locked out of the app.
“We are engaging with relevant authorities and hope to be able to resume service in the future.”
Why is this happening?
- WeChat, together with TikTok, had been included in India’s Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s ban on 58 mobile apps from Chinese companies that it said were “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of state and public order”.
- There are online protests in India encouraging the boycott of a range of Chinese-made goods, from apps to smartphones, after the Indian Army and Chinese troops fought each other in a deadly encounter along the two nations’ disputed Himalayan border on June 15.
- Chinese brands like Xioami, Oppo, Vivo, Realme and OnePlus controlled over 80% market share in India as of early 2020. Two of these brands are major sponsors of cricket in the country.
- On the economic front, bilateral trade has rapidly expanded between the two nations to the value of $85-$95bn in recent years, although the trade deficit of US$50bn is largely in China’s favour (despite China being the third-largest market for Indian exports in 2019).
- India imports almost 70% of its bulk drugs and intermediates, 37% of electronic components, 45% of consumer electronics, and 44% of air conditioner and refrigerator parts from China.
- Generally, Chinese apps are under scrutiny all over the world. In the United States, Donald Trump’s government is threatening to ban TikTok after accusing the platform of sharing information with the Chinese government. Then, following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong, the platform announced it would exit the Hong Kong market within days.