China imposes drone export curbs amid US tech tensions

Beijing says it wants to safeguard ‘national security and interests’ amid escalating tension with Washington.

Visitors look at a display of GJ-11 stealth armed reconnaissance drone at an exhibition in Beijing
Visitors look at a display of GJ-11 stealth armed reconnaissance drone at an exhibition- Forging Ahead in the New Era - during an organised media tour before the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing, October 12, 2022 [Florence Lo/Reuters]

China has announced export controls on some drones and drone-related equipment, saying it wants to safeguard “national security and interests” amid escalating tension with the United States over access to technology.

The restrictions on equipment announced on Monday, including some drone engines, lasers, communication equipment and anti-drone systems, would take effect on September 1, the commerce ministry said.

The controls would also affect some consumer drones, and no civilian drones could be exported for military purposes, a ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

“China’s modest expansion of the scope of its drone control this time is an important measure to demonstrate our stance as a responsible major country, to implement global security initiatives, and maintain world peace,” the spokesperson said.

Authorities had notified relevant countries and regions, the spokesperson said.

China has a big drone manufacturing industry and exports to several markets including the US.

US lawmakers have said more than 50 percent of drones sold in the US are made by China-based company DJI, and they are the most popular drone used by public safety agencies.

Not for military conflicts

DJI said on Monday it always strictly complied with and enforced laws and regulations of the countries or regions in which it operates, including China’s export control regulatory requirements.

“We have never designed and manufactured products and equipment for military use, nor have we ever marketed or sold our products for use in military conflicts or wars in any country,” the drone maker added.

A German retailer in March 2022 accused DJI of leaking data on Ukrainian military positions to Russia, which the company rejected as “utterly false”.

China’s commerce ministry said in April this year that Western media were spreading “unfounded accusations” that it was exporting drones to the battlefield in Ukraine, adding the reports were an attempt to “smear” Chinese firms and it would continue to strengthen export controls on drones.

The drone export curbs come after China announced export controls of some metals widely used in chipmaking last month, following moves by Washington to restrict China’s access to key technologies, such as chipmaking equipment.

Beijing on Friday defended its dealings with Russia as “normal economic and trade cooperation” after a US intelligence report released last week said Beijing possibly provided equipment used in Ukraine that might have military applications.

Source: News Agencies