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World

India Bans Dozens Of Chinese Apps, Including TikTok

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tensions have spiked between the world's two most populous nations. That would be China and India. The two countries share a border that extends for more than 2,000 miles, and it was along that border that violence broke out last month. Twenty Indian troops were killed. Now India has banned dozens of Chinese apps, including the social video app TikTok. India has been TikTok's biggest foreign market. NPR's Lauren Frayer has been talking with some of the Indians obsessed with it.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: When the coronavirus hit India, Sumit Jain was forced to shut the clothing shop he runs in his hometown in western India. Under lockdown, he was bored and worried.

SUMIT JAIN: (Speaking Hindi).

FRAYER: TikTok is how I stayed sane, he says. I posted videos every day.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in Hindi).

FRAYER: In this TikTok clip, Jain lip-syncs lyrics about the coronavirus to the tune of a popular Bollywood song. Jain is a skinny 28-year-old with a curly mop of hair, gold earrings and nearly 4 million followers on TikTok. The social video app has made him famous. He starred in a music video and even got offers to be on TV.

JAIN: (Speaking Hindi).

FRAYER: Small-town Indians like me used to have to move to the big city to get noticed, he says. TikTok lets us do that from home. Up to a third of TikTok users are believed to be in India. They're the biggest group outside China. Some Indians have even monetized it, selling English lessons on TikTok, for example. But this week the Indian government banned TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese-made apps, amid tensions with Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ARNAB GOSWAMI: We the people of India, standing behind the government, have the ability to hit China where it hurts.

FRAYER: India's nationalist TV anchors applauded the move. Many Indians are outraged over China's killing last month of Indian troops. Some are calling for a boycott of all Chinese goods.

AKHIL BERY: The government is trying to tap into the national sentiment kind of sweeping India right now.

FRAYER: Akhil Bery with the think tank Eurasia Group says the Indian government is concerned about data privacy on Chinese apps. It also wants Indians to develop Indian apps rather than using Chinese ones. But India's own tech startups get a lot of Chinese investment, Bery says.

BERY: When you take a look at India's unicorns - startups that are valued at over $1 billion - about 18 of the 30 of them have Chinese investment.

FRAYER: So if Beijing retaliates and pulls Chinese investment, that could hurt India even more, he says. TikTok says it's following Indian privacy laws and is asking the Indian government to reconsider. Meanwhile, in a small town in northern India, housewife Anita Meena has been posting videos to TikTok of herself doing folk dances.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRAYER: And they've gone viral. She gets recognized when she goes to her local market, she says.

ANITA MEENA: (Speaking Hindi).

FRAYER: Now that TikTok is banned, Meena says she'll focus on YouTube instead. It's unclear how many of India's roughly 200 million TikTok users will do the same. Lauren Frayer, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHLOE X HALLE SONG, "DO IT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.