Shares of Chinese gaming and social media company Tencent (0700.HK) fell more than 2% on Thursday. This news just came after India banned 118 mobile apps, including Tencent’s popular gaming app PUBG.
Soon after the ban, Tencent lost as much as $14 billion in market value, as the stock traded 2.2% lower, snapping two straight sessions of gain. The list of 118 apps is mostly Chinese and also includes apps from Baidu and Xiaomi’s ShareSave, as India stepped up its pressure on the Chinese technology firms after a standoff in the Himalayan range with Beijing.
It should be noted, while PUBG is created by a South Korean company, Tencent, which is China’s one of the biggest gaming companies, PUBG bought PUBG’s mobile version. Incidentally, PUBG’s biggest market is India, which accounts for 175 million installs or 24 percent of the total downloads.
The fresh ban was announced a day after a senior official from the Indian government said troops were deployed on strategic hilltops after an attempted PLA incursion along the disputed Himalayan border. However, Tencent declined to comment on that matter and the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi also declined to comment on the ban of PUBG and other apps.
According to the Indian technology ministry, these apps were a threat to India’s security and sovereignty. The ministry said in a statement, “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.”
Earlier on 29th June, the Indian government had banned 59 Chinese apps, which included UC Browser and TikTok. That move was referred to as a “digital strike” followed by a border faceoff with Chinese PLA at a disputed border in the Himalayan range, where as many as 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives. India’s digital strike has also stalled the plans for various Chinese companies’ business operations. Alibaba, one of the major backers of Indian startups, also had to keep their plans on hold to invest in the subcontinent for at least six months.
Even before the ban of PUBG, another ban was also imposed on 47 Chinese apps, which are mostly clones or simply different versions of the already banned apps. However, unlike what happened in June, this decision of the Indian government was much more low key, but few apps including Xiaomi’s Mi Browser Pro and Baidu’s search apps were banned. A ban on the Mi Browser could potentially mean that the Chinese firm will have to stop installing that in its phones, as all of its phones come pre-loaded with the app. Currently, Xiaomi is India’s No 1 smartphone company, with a massive user base of 90 million users.
India has also made approval processes much more stringent for Chinese companies, who are looking to invest in the country, additionally the country has also tightened the norms for Chinese companies who are trying to participate in various government tenders.
The Indian government also asked Chinese companies including ByteDance, which owns TikTok to answer as many as 77 questions about their apps, including if they censored contents, worked on behalf of foreign governments, etc. The organizations were given three weeks of time in order to respond to the questionnaire, which was seen and reported by Reuters.
On the other hand, after the PUBG ban, China’s commerce ministry said that it strongly opposes India’s move to ban several Chinese apps. The commerce ministry spokesperson told in a briefing, the Indian actions violate the legal interests of Chinese investors and service providers, and China asks India to correct its mistakes.
So, with all these developments now it needs to be seen if the Indian government lifts the ban from the Chinese apps, including TikTok and PUBG in near future, or it goes further ahead and bans more apps and companies from doing business in the country.