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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (REUTERS)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (REUTERS)

US takes a cue from India, may ban China’s apps

  • Beijing faces strong political and economic blowback
  • Global pressure seems to be squeezing China, as it tries to assert itself as the dominant Asian power

China’s increasingly assertive territorial claims on its neighbours, including India, have unleashed a strong political and economic blowback from countries around the world, with the US now considering banning TikTok and other Chinese mobile apps in a nod to the Indian measure.

Global pressure seems to be squeezing China, as it tries to assert itself as the dominant Asian power. Two US aircraft carriers are already patrolling the South China Sea and some Western nations have sharply criticized Beijing for its new national security law enforced in Hong Kong.

Late Monday, a week after India banned 59 Chinese apps, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said that it may also consider a similar move. “We are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it. We have worked on this very issue for a long time," Pompeo told Fox News.

Pompeo last week described India’s move as one that would “boost India’s sovereignty..., integrity and national security."

A 4 July report in Forbes magazine said, “TikTok owner ByteDance has invested more than $1 billion to build its vast Indian user base, and now faces losses of as much as $6 billion, as hundreds of millions of users are cut off."

The India ban and Pompeo welcoming the move raise “the spectre of the platform being targeted by the Trump administration…with devastating implications for its US user base," the Forbes report said.

India’s move followed the killing of 20 Indian army personnel in a brutal clash on 15 June along the Line of Actual control in Ladakh. Besides banning the Chinese apps, New Delhi has also taken steps to block Chinese investments into its power, roads, telecom and small and medium enterprises sectors. Japan and France have also publicly voiced support for India.

The rise in Chinese aggression against India and other neighbours around the South China Sea comes amid a hardening of world opinion against China on account of the way it has handled the novel coronavirus pandemic. Many countries are looking to reduce their economic dependence on China after the spread of the pandemic, faulting China for not doing enough to prevent its spread around the world.

Tensions in the South China Sea—a strategic waterway through which approximately $5 trillion worth of goods are shipped every year—and between India and China have brought two US aircraft carriers into the region. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News on Monday that the US military “will continue to stand strong" in relation to a conflict between India and China or anywhere else. “The message is clear. We’re not going to stand by and let China or anyone else take the reins in terms of being the most powerful, dominant force, whether it’s in that region or over here," Meadows said.

Added to this is growing criticism of Beijing’s new security law for Hong Kong. On Tuesday, Australia, in an updated travel warning, warned its nationals that they may be at risk of “arbitrary detention" if they visit China, Associated Press reported.

According to Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, a combination of all these factors but mostly “the presence of the US aircraft carriers in the South China Sea may have played a role in China agreeing to pull back" from some friction points along the India-China border.

“When there is pressure on multiple fronts, a country has to decide which side to focus on," Kondapalli said. He was referring to a slow process of disengagement underway between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control. While both sides had disengaged from Galwan Valley on Monday as the first step and established a buffer zone, the process continued on Tuesday with a pullback of troops from two more points in Ladakh—Patrolling Points 15 and 17A, according to people familiar with the matter.

Crucially, however, there has been no confirmation of any reduction of troops from the banks of the Pangong Tso, where Chinese troops have made inroads into areas previously patrolled by Indian forces.

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