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China Restricts Drone Exports Due to Ukraine Conflict and Military Applications

China has announced restrictions on exports of long-range civilian drones, citing concerns that they may be converted for military use and their potential role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Chinese government, led by President Xi Jinping, has expressed neutrality in the war but is alarmed by reports suggesting that Chinese-made drones are being used by both sides for reconnaissance and potential attacks.

The restrictions, which will take effect tomorrow, aim to prevent the use of drones for “non-peaceful purposes,” according to a statement released by the Ministry of Commerce. However, the exact details of these restrictions have not been disclosed.

China is a major developer and exporter of drones, with DJI Technology Co. being one of the leading global competitors in the industry. In April 2022, DJI announced its withdrawal from Russia and Ukraine to prevent its drones from being used in combat.

The Ministry of Commerce has expressed concerns about the increasing risk of civilian drones being converted for military purposes, particularly those that have the ability to fly beyond the sight range of operators, stay airborne for more than 30 minutes, have attachments that can throw objects, or weigh over 7 kilograms (15½ pounds). These specific types of drones will be subject to the new restrictions.

In response to the crisis in Ukraine, some Chinese civilian drone companies have voluntarily suspended their operations in conflict areas, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The government has accused the United States and Western media of spreading false information about Chinese drone exports.

These restrictions come in the wake of a U.S. intelligence report that suggested China could be supplying equipment to Russia for military use in Ukraine. The report cited Russian customs data showing that Chinese state-owned military contractors have been supplying drones, navigation equipment, fighter jet parts, and other goods. The Biden administration has warned China of potential consequences if it supports Russia’s war effort, although it is unclear whether any of the trade mentioned in the report could trigger U.S. retaliation.

China has emphasized that it has always opposed the use of civilian drones for military purposes and that these restrictions are a demonstration of its responsibility as a major country.

In March 2022, the Ukrainian government appealed to DJI to stop selling drones, claiming that the Russian military was using them to target missile attacks. However, DJI denied allegations that it leaked data on Ukraine’s military positions to Russia.

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