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Commerce Ministry clarifies scope of drone export controls

By Zhong Nan | | Updated: 2023-07-31 21:05
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In this photo illustration, a DJI Mavic 2 Pro made by the Chinese drone maker hovers in place on Dec 15, 2021 in Miami, Florida. [Photo/Agencies]

Enforcing export controls on high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles with specific military attributes is a common international practice, a commerce official said.

The official's comments came after the Ministry of Commerce announced export control measures on Monday for certain types of drones and a number of drone-related equipment, such as lasers, communication equipment, hyperspectral cameras and anti-drone systems.

These measures will come into effect on Sept 1, and all other civilian drones not listed are prohibited from being exported for military purposes, according to public notices released by the ministry.

Emphasizing these moves follow customary international practice, the head of the Ministry of Commerce's bureau of industrial safety and import and export control said China has previously provided notification for similar measures.

China has gradually enforced export controls on drones since 2002, aligning its scope and technical standards with international norms. However, the rapid advancement of drone technologies, together with the proliferation of their application, have led to an escalation in the risks associated with certain high-end civilian drones being potentially repurposed for military use.

As a major producer and exporter of drones, China has made the decision to moderately expand its export controls on drones. These measures are not targeted at any specific country or region, the ministry said.

The ministry will conduct a review of export application documents from the date of receipt, or in conjunction with government branches, and choose to grant or deny permission within the prescribed statutory time limit.

China has consistently upheld the belief technological advancements should benefit people of all countries. The Chinese government firmly supports Chinese companies in conducting global trade and cooperation in the civilian drone sector, the official said.

"It should be noted that export controls are not a ban on exports," the official said, adding as long as the drones are used for legitimate civil purposes and the procedures are followed, regular exports are permitted.

Chinese commercial drone manufacturer DJI said since its inception, the company has consistently opposed the use of its products and technologies for any military or war-related purposes. It has never designed or manufactured products and equipment for military use, the Shenzhen, Guangdong province-headquartered company said in a statement on late Monday.

"DJI will strictly adhere to the temporary export control policy on drones announced by the Chinese government, ensuring full compliance and conscientiously fulfilling our corporate social responsibilities to use technology for the greater benefit of humanity," it read.

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