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As India bans 59 Chinese apps, US formally designates Huawei a security risk

It is not at all clear to me why Indians and Chinese are grouped together as Asians. I know their countries share some border, and,…

It is not at all clear to me why Indians and Chinese are grouped together as Asians.

I know their countries share some border, and, although I have not travelled along the borders, I am yet to see an Indian that looks like a Chinese or vice-versa. Many Indians have some Caucasian features, though they are usually darker in skin complexion which ranges from ebony black (of some Africans) to the typical pink color of “white” people. On the other hand, typical Asians – from China, Korea, Japan, etc., have different facial features and build and they virtually all have yellow-like skin complexion. I do not mind being confused with a Ghanaian, Senegalese, or Ugandan, since we all have roughly similar features and skin complexion – not minding the shades. But the variety in continental “Asia” is totally confusing. It’s perhaps easier to accept Indians and Northern and Eastern Africans as having the same immediate heritage than do Indians and Chinese. This obviously brings to question the usefulness of racial grouping, since, sadly, in today’s world, people who don’t look alike tend to not work well together!

Of course, we are all humans, with the same ultimate origin, but somehow, the superficial distinctions do seem to matter. If in doubt, recall the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the world since the past two months following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA. Floyd, a black man, was choked to death in a racially motivated event in which a white policeman (Derek Chauvin) knelt hard on the neck of the already handcuffed Floyd until he (Floyd) died. (In this incidence, the wickedness of Chauvin was only matched by the callousness of fellow policeman Tou Thao, a Southeast Asia Hmong immigrant in the US, who stood by cold-heartedly watching Floyd being murdered without doing anything to save Floyd’s life.)  The matter was so touching all over the globe to the point that traditional African voodoo religion practitioners in Dahomey claimed to have recalled the spirit of Floyd in order to spiritually bring some suffering to Chauvin who brutally killed innocent Floyd. As it were, India and China have been fighting with each other for several weeks now over alleged Chinese intrusion into India border, as the rest of the world was nursing the George Floyd police murder incident and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The border war between India and China this past few weeks has resulted in the worst violence between the two countries in more than 50 years. India is blaming China for provoking the clash by intruding into a territory it claims, high in the Himalayan mountain range. China reportedly said the incident happened on its side of the border, and that Indian troops intruded. Twenty Indian soldiers have already died from the brawl, while the number of Chinese casualties is not known.

Without the military and economic wherewithal to withstand China, India is looking into high technology trade deprivation to fight China. This might be effective since the Chinese telcos and social media companies badly want a significant share of India’s huge market and potential. (Approximately half of India’s 1.3 billion people reportedly have an online presence.) On 29 June 2020, the government of India banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including TikTok. The Chinese apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said.

Incidentally, cybersecurity analysts are on the side of India regarding the security risks that Chinese apps and telecom companies may present, especially in recognition of China’s National Intelligence Law, which holds Chinese companies legally responsible for providing access and cooperation for China state intelligence gathering. India has for some time regulations of its own that treat data as national asset, but Chinese app developers, who have somehow eclipsed Indian developers by a wide margin, have found their products in high demand in India. There is in fact a fear in India of digital colonization.

The 59 banned apps from China include Likee, Xiaomi’s Mi Community, and Tencent’s WeChat; with the three companies reportedly having an active user base of over 500 million in India. TikTok is reportedly used by approximately 120 million people in India. Of course, the Alibaba Group also has an extensive presence in India. Huawei’s telco products are also now banned in India.

Enforcement of the mobile app ban lies majorly with Google and Apple, who have both blocked Indian people from accessing the banned apps from Apple Store and Google Play. Moreover, the Chinese app developers have on their own blocked access by Indians, as a way of complying with the ban.

In another development targeting China, on 30 June 2020, the US Federal Communications Commission officially designated the Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE as national security threats. The action cuts the two Chinese companies from billions of dollars in federal broadband subsidies. The agency also voted unanimously last year to bar telecommunications manufacturers it deemed to be threats from receiving money meant to expand internet access to underserved areas, including rural America. On 29 June 2020, the US also blocked the export of high-tech products to Hong Kong, in response to the Chinese government’s new national security law that cracks down on dissent in Hong Kong.

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