The Chinese government has recently introduced a two-year regime of export controls for civilian drones and components that can potentially be used for military purposes. While several media outlets have speculated that this move is aimed at curbing the deployment of such aircraft in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Chinese authorities have not explicitly stated the reason behind the restriction.
The announcement of this new regulation was made jointly by several governmental bodies on Monday. Two separate notices were issued in order to provide detailed information regarding which commercial drones and payloads will require an export license starting from September 1. According to the regulation, UAVs that have the capability to fly beyond the operator’s line of sight, with an endurance of at least 30 minutes, and a take-off weight of over 7kg will fall under the scope of these export controls. The same applies to robotic craft that are designed to drop cargo or accommodate non-authorized payloads.
To export specific high-performance engines, cameras capable of transmitting signals from a range of over 50km, control stations that can pilot more than ten drones simultaneously, and anti-drone payloads, a license will be required. The controls also extend to laser rangefinders, infrared-cameras, and point-of-view cameras with specifications that surpass certain thresholds.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has emphasized Beijing’s commitment to upholding global security and regional stability through the implementation of these export controls. The government’s opposition to the weaponization of civilian aircraft has been reiterated, and it is stated that the introduction of these controls demonstrates China’s responsibility in this regard.
Although not confirmed by the Chinese government, the Associated Press has linked these new rules with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Both sides in the conflict have been observed using civilian drones for reconnaissance and dropping small explosives on enemy positions, as revealed by frontline videos circulated on social media platforms. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Vitaly Deinega, in an interview last month, explained that Kiev cannot officially purchase anything Chinese in order to avoid damaging its relationship with the US. As a result, Ukraine relies on intermediaries to supply quadcopter drones.
It is worth noting that while the Chinese government has denied providing arms to either side in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it has distanced itself from the conflict and criticized the US for its “Cold War mentality” and the expansion of NATO in Europe, which it believes triggered the hostilities.
In conclusion, the Chinese government has introduced a two-year regime of export controls for civilian drones and components that can be used for military purposes. The purpose of these controls has not been explicitly mentioned by the Chinese authorities, but speculations have arisen regarding their potential role in curbing the deployment of such aircraft in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. These export controls aim to demonstrate China’s commitment to maintaining global security and regional stability by opposing the weaponization of civilian aircraft.