China said on Monday that it will impose export controls on certain high-performance drones with both commercial and military potential applications to prevent their use by armed forces, in a setback for strong exporters such as Shenzhen-based drone maker DJI.
Why it matters: The measure is an extension of an existing export ban on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for military use imposed on drone makers by Chinese regulators since August 2015.
- It comes after Beijing faces accusations from the US that China may supply Russia with military technology for its conflict against Ukraine, Reuters has reported.
Details: Drones with radio power exceeding the limit set for civilian products globally, will be subject to export controls from September “to protect national security and interests,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said in an announcement on Monday (our translation).
- This will also apply to drones that are equipped with sensors such as multispectral cameras in a wide wavelength range, and those that can determine their position and navigate beyond certain distances using lasers, as well as those capable of carrying “unauthorized” payloads.
- The two-year order requires drone exporters to apply for an export license with the submission of proof documents that show how their products will be used and who will be the end users.
- The ministry will also impose export controls on drone components ranging from engines to radio equipment, according to another document published Monday. It has not specified when the restrictions will be lifted.
- China is concerned that certain high-end civilian drones could be repurposed for military use, and insists that its proposed measures are not against any specific country or region, China Daily cited a ministry spokesperson as saying.
- DJI has always opposed the use of its products for war-related purposes and will strictly adhere to the temporary export control policy to ensure full compliance, Zhang Xiaonan, a senior director at DJI, posted on the Twitter-like platform Weibo.
Context: DJI, with the lion’s share of the global consumer drone market at over 70%, suspended sales and after-sales services in Russia and Ukraine in April 2022. Its products have, however, been available from third parties in the two countries, Chinese media outlet Caixin cited industry insiders as saying.
- Beijing on July 3 released restrictions on exports of gallium and germanium, two precious metals used in making chips and radars. Earlier this year, Japan and the Netherlands decided to limit the sale of certain types of chip making equipment to China.