China to restrict exports of certain drones and supercomputers

Chndrna09

A new cold war may be brewing between China and the West, and it’s centered around the 21st century’s weapon of warfare of choice: drones.

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC) has issued a statement announcing that the country will restrict exports of high-performance drones starting Aug. 15.

The new edict has been drawn up due to fears that advanced drones and other technology could “compromise national security,” according to China’s state-run newspaper China Daily.

China’s new rules dictate that companies exporting advanced drones and supercomputers will now have to first register such exports with the country’s commerce authorities for approval.

china drones
Chinese-made drones at an exhibition of unmanned aerial vehicles in Beijing on July 10, 2014.

What qualifies as an “advanced” drone? In this case, China deems advanced drones as any drone that can remain airborne for more than an hour.

Also subject to review will be drones capable of flying in rough weather (such as gusty winds), and those able to hover about 50 feet in the air, according to a report from the South China Morning Post.

In addition to submitting drones for registration, Chinese companies will also be required to submit technical specifications for such technology exports, as well as export contracts detailing who the recipient will be and what the recipient intends to do with the technology. The review process is said to take upwards of 45 days, an eternity in the realm of technology, but a relatively short span of time in terms of governmental bureaucracy.

However, the ban doesn’t appear to apply to recreational drones. “

The ban is targeting drones not designed for commercial use

The ban is targeting drones not designed for commercial use and will protect key technologies of Chinese companies,” Shao Jianhuo, vice-president of DJI Technology, a leading commercial drone company, told China Daily.

As for supercomputers, any computer with greater than 8 tera floating-point operations per second will simply not be allowed to be exported from China.

Tianhe-2
The Chinese-developed supercomputer Tianhe-2 at the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, China.

Image: Imaginechina/Associated Press

But it isn’t just China putting the brakes on technology exchanges. Back in April, the U.S. government reportedly blocked Intel from helping China to enhance its Tianhe-2 supercomputer, touted as the fastest supercomputer on the planet.

Nevertheless, the new message from China seems pretty clear: Making iPhones for the rest of the world is fine, but let’s pull back on sending advanced drones and supercomputers to our competitors around the globe.

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