China Tightens Control on Drone Exports Amid Global Security Concerns

In a bid to safeguard national security and interests, China declared on Monday that it would tighten controls on the export of drones and related equipment. The new regulations, effective from September 1, necessitate that vendors acquire permission before exporting specific drone technologies, including engines, lasers, imaging, communications, radar gear, and anti-drone systems. Some consumer-grade drones also fall under these restrictions.

The announcement further clarified that civilian drones excluded from the regulations are banned from being exported for military use.

The Commerce Ministry said, “'s modest expansion of the scope of drone control this time is an important measure to demonstrate its commitment as a responsible major country to implement global security initiatives and maintain world peace.”

China has expressed consistent opposition to the use of civilian drones for military purposes.

Drones have become a significant factor in modern warfare, and their potential for military use has sparked controversy, especially in the ongoing conflict in .

China has a robust drone manufacturing industry that exports to multiple markets, including the . However, this move might have implications on the ongoing war in Ukraine, where both and Ukraine have been known to use drones.

Last week, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report alleging that China had shipped more than $12 million worth of drones and drone parts to Russia as of March, based on a third-party analysis of Russian customs data. The report did not clarify if these shipments were used in the battlefield but noted the shipment of “dual-use” goods.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry disputed these allegations, insisting that their cooperation with Moscow “does not target any third party.” Furthermore, in April, the Commerce Ministry denied allegations of China providing military support to Russia through drone exports. They branded such media reports as “deliberate smears.”

Amid these controversies, certain Chinese civilian have taken a stand by suspending their operations in conflict areas since the crisis in Ukraine began. They echoed China's restrictions on drones from being used for non-peaceful purposes.

Despite its claims of neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, China has continued to support Moscow economically and diplomatically. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concerns in June about Chinese firms possibly supplying technology to Russia that could “advance its aggression in Ukraine.”

The recent controls come amid escalating trade restrictions between the United States and China concerning high-tech products. Notably, China has been implementing export controls covering drones over the past two decades, according to Henry Gao, a professor of law at Management University. These new restrictions could escalate tensions between the two and potentially hamper business operations.

The world's leading drone manufacturer, Shenzhen-based DJI, sells more than 50% of its drones in the US. Despite this, DJI and other Chinese companies face mounting restrictions from the US, including bans on buying advanced chips and chip-making equipment. In response, China imposed export controls on two elements essential for manufacturing semiconductors last month.

China reportedly maintains that its new export control measures are not targeted at any specific country. In a recent statement, DJI assured that it never designed or marketed equipment for military purposes and pledged to actively cooperate with the new export control policy.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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