Beijing on Thursday cited Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and yoga’s popularity in China to criticise India banning 118 Chinese apps and subtly warned New Delhi not to join the US’s ‘clean network’ programme, Washington’s initiative for an internet without security threats.
The Chinese foreign ministry said unlike the reason behind India’s decision to ban the 118 apps, the popularity of Tagore’s poems or the wide approval of yoga among Chinese citizens did not mean that China looks at these as “infiltration” or “threat”.
India on Wednesday banned 118, mostly Chinese mobile apps, including Tencent Holdings Ltd’s popular video game PUBG, citing data security concerns.
These “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,” India’s ministry of electronics and information technology said in a statement.
The latest round of ban – India first banned 59 Chinese apps on June 29 – comes in the backdrop of fresh escalation in the ongoing border friction between the two Himalayan neighbours in eastern Ladakh.
While the foreign ministry invoked Tagore and his poetry, China’s commerce ministry was less poetic. It said it strongly opposed India banning Chinese apps.
“Indian actions violate the legal interests of Chinese investors and services providers and China asks India to correct its mistakes,” commerce ministry spokesperson Gao Feng said at a briefing.
Gao said India has abused national security by imposing “discriminate restrictions” on Chinese companies,
He said China has always asked its companies to comply with international and local rules and regulations in their overseas operations.
“We hope that the Indian side will work with the Chinese side to maintain hard-won bilateral cooperation and development so as to build an open and fair business environment for international investors and services providers including Chinese companies,” Gao was quoted as saying.
The Chinese foreign ministry, meanwhile, said neither country should hurt long-term interests because of short sightedness.
“The Indian side decided to ban some great and popular Chinese apps. Indian user’s rights and interests are firstly harmed. And Chinese business’s rights and interests will also be harmed. So, what India has done is not beneficial to anyone,” spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
“As I said both are ancient civilisations with splendid cultures that we are proud of, and the exchange between the two sides have been going on for thousands of years.”
Giving the example of Tagore, Hua said many of his poems are popular in China, and then quoted a line from one of his poems: “We read the world wrong, and say that it deceives us”.
“Also, yoga is becoming more and more popular in China; including myself, I am very fond of Indian culture. But we do not think that Indian culture or the poems or other things are infiltrating here or are posing any threat to Chinese culture,” Hua said.
“What we believe is that the intermingling of different cultures is conducive to promoting people’s mutual understanding and friendship.”
Hua also let out a subtle warning about ties between India and the US.
“I have noted that the US state department on the same day said that India banned more than 100 Chinese apps and called on other countries to join India to roll out the clean network initiative,” she said.
“So, I don’t know if there is any correlation or interaction between India and the US. But India is an ancient civilisation with wise people. They should know what the US has done in Cyber Security for example Dirtbox, Prism, Irritant Horn, Muscular and under-sea cable tapping. Indian people must have the wisdom to tell whether the US practice on cyber security is clean or dirty.”
“We hope India could stay committed to its precious independence decision making.”
Experts in China have expectedly criticised New Delhi’s move to ban the apps.
Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies said while the apps ban will likely have a limited impact on the Indian economy, the “…ill intentions behind the Indian government’s move to stir up tension and even a conflict with China are increasingly reaching a dangerous level”.
“This is dangerous. The worse the Indian economy becomes, the higher the probability that a military conflict could be provoked by New Delhi. This is a very worrisome situation,” Zhao told state media.