Google has removed an app from its Play Store that was designed to help users to detect and delete apps that were made in China.
The Remove China Apps, which is reported to have been downloaded by more than a million people on its first day has now been removed from Google’s Play Store following complaints from Chinese app makers that the app was clearly a form of market disruption.
The app, which was developed by the Indian company One Touch AppLabs, was designed to help identify and remove any apps of Chinese origin from the user’s phone. This included identifying extremely popular apps such as TikTok (owned by a Beijing-based company) and Zoom, whose founder was born in China.
If a user chose to delete all the apps that had been identified as being linked to China by Remove China Apps, the user would receive a message on their phone that is reported to have said “Congratulations. You are awesome. No China app found in your system.”
The app was not as successful, however, in being able to identify apps that had been pre-installed on Chinese-made smartphones.
Despite millions of downloads by Indian people hoping to rid themselves of Chinese apps, most smartphones in India were made in China. Also, some tech commentators have suggested that it may be difficult for Indian developers to make good equivalent apps and that a freeze on investment in India by countries like China (announced in April) could actually hit funding opportunities for Indian start-ups.
Remove China Apps, which was developed by an Indian company and has the vast majority of its downloads in India appears to have been released in response to tensions between China and India after Chinese troops were reported to have moved into the disputed Kashmir region. Also, many people in India blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown they have been forced to live under since March.
For Google, it appears to have simply been a matter of removing an app that potentially breached guidelines.
Clearly, there is a great deal of anti-Chinese feeling in India at the moment but it’s quite surprising anyway that an app that looks likely to have had a serious effect on competition and access to a large app market for companies simply because of their geographical base and/or origins was able to make it into Google’s Store in the first place. Google itself is now facing criticism from some Indians for removing the app and, therefore, appearing to some to support China in the argument. There is currently still a stand-off between the troops of both countries and the argument has also highlighted how many tech products and services used in India come from China, and how popular they are. This is something that was also discovered by the US government in recent arguments relating to Huawei products. Global tech companies are now often finding themselves involved in global arguments.