House bill seeks ban on China drones, but protectionism can't save US manufacturing
Published: Nov 02, 2023 09:52 PM
China US

China US

A bill from a US House panel that seeks to ban the US government from buying Chinese drones is a sheer protectionist measure aimed at safeguarding its domestic drone industry and it violates the principles of market competition, Chinese experts said.

The top members of a US House committee on China are introducing a bill called "American Security Drone Act" on Wednesday, Reuters reported. 

The bill would prohibit the federal government from using American taxpayer dollars to purchase such equipment from various countries, including China. It would also bar local and state governments from purchasing Chinese drones using federal grants, and require a federal report detailing the amount of foreign commercial off-the-shelf drones and covered unmanned aircraft systems procured by federal departments and agencies from China, according to the report. 

Lawmakers who seek to introduce the bill said the move is aimed at protecting US national security, reducing reliance on foreign-manufactured drone technology and encouraging growth in the US drone industry.

Some US politicians are overstretching the concept of national security to impose a protectionist measure aimed at supporting the domestic drone industry, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"This approach would significantly increase costs and contradict the principles of market competition. Relying on protectionism cannot rescue the US manufacturing sector," Wang said.

Implementing and enacting such a plan would be challenging, because China currently holds a global leading position in the field of drones, particularly in the civilian sector, Liu Dingding, an expert in the technology industry, told the Global times.

"The US would need to incur higher costs," Liu said.

China holds a leading place in the drone domain and occupies a significant position in the global market, especially with companies like drone manufacturer DJI gaining widespread recognition in the US market, Liu said.

Over 50 percent of drones sold in the US are made by DJI, and they are the most popular drones in use by public safety agencies, Republican lawmakers said earlier this year, according to the Reuters report.

Among moves to crack down on China's drone industry, the US Congress in 2019 banned the Pentagon from buying or using drones and components made in China.

In 2020, the US Commerce Department imposed export restrictions on 59 Chinese companies including DJI, abusing the concept of "protecting national security."

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce earlier responded that it firmly opposes the move of the US to abuse its national power to suppress Chinese companies, and it vowed to take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.

Global Times