New export-control lists to protect national interests

Under the law, China can take "reciprocal measures" toward countries or regions that abuse export controls and threaten its national security.

China’s top legislature on Saturday passed a law restricting exports of controlled items, allowing the government to act against countries that abuse export controls in a way that harms China’s interests.

With detailed stipulations on export-control lists and measures, the law was adopted on Saturday at a bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. It will go into effect on December 1.

Under the law, China can take “reciprocal measures” toward countries or regions that abuse export controls and threaten its national security.

The law was formulated for the purpose of safeguarding national security and interests. Export controls under the law will apply to civilian, military and nuclear products, as well as goods, technologies and services related to national security.

The law also clarifies that technical documentation related to the items covered by the law is also subject to export-control stipulations. It adds that Chinese authorities will formulate and adjust an export control list of items to be published in a “timely manner.”

Companies and individuals who endanger national security by breaching the new export control law, including those outside of China, could face criminal charges. Violations of the law, such as exporting items without a permit, could result in fines of 5 million yuan (US$746,500), or up to 20 times the business value of the illegal transaction.

Export control is a common international practice in which a country prohibits or restricts the export of specific items, such as nuclear materials, in order to fulfil its international obligations, such as non-proliferation, while safeguarding its own national security and development interests.

The new law came after the United States’ recent attempts to block Chinese technology firms such as telecommunications gear supplier Huawei, ByteDance’s TikTok app and Tencent’s messaging app WeChat on grounds of posing a national security threat. Washington has also used an “entity list” to make it more difficult for US firms to sell high-tech items to blacklisted companies. Targeted firms include Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp, China’s biggest chipmaker.

The latest measure gives China more room to safeguard national security and interests, after the commerce ministry issued a revised list of technologies that are banned or restricted for export in August.

US President Donald Trump had earlier ordered ByteDance to sell its US operations of TikTok to an American firm or face a block in the country. Technologies TikTok uses such as voice recognition, text analysis and content recommendation are on the export list.

The economic relationship between Beijing and Washington has been roiled by Trump’s unprecedented campaign of tariffs, threats of bans and sanctions on Chinese tech firms. With Trump facing a tough re-election campaign, US officials have described measures against China as national security safeguards, prompting strong opposition from Beijing.

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