On December 29, 2021, the PRC State Council’s Information Office (the Information Office) published a white paper on export controls, providing a comprehensive picture of China’s current legal and regulatory regime for export controls and potential future changes in export control governance. The document is China’s first white paper on export controls and comes approximately one year after the implementation of the PRC Export Control Law in December 2020.

On the same day, the PRC Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), which plays a central role in administering China’s export control regime for non-military items, issued a statement giving more information about the White Paper, while an unnamed MOFCOM official gave an interview to Chinese state-owned media discussing the White Paper in the context of PRC government policy with respect to multilateral export controls as well as China’s national security and development interests.

Given the nature of the Information Office and MOFCOM statements, the White Paper signals a high degree of attention from the PRC central government on the continued development of China’s export control regime.

Opposing “Abuse” of Export Control Measures

Without directly mentioning the United States, the White Paper criticizes the potential abuse of export control measures, such as the gratuitous imposition of discriminatory restrictions, applying double standards to matters related to non-proliferation, and making use of multilateral mechanisms to discriminate against or exclude particular countries. The White Paper emphasizes the importance of international cooperation, in particular, under relevant UN frameworks.

The White Paper also calls upon all countries to promote common objectives such as the sharing of benefits from scientific and technological development, to increase human wellbeing, to effectively manage risks and threats related to export controls, and to create a secure environment for economic and social development.  The inclusion of such recommendations could be intended as a response to recent US government efforts to regulate emerging and fundamental technologies, targeting Chinese entities with various restrictive measures, and other actions such as the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative,” which involves US export controls, in part.

The White Paper reiterates that China’s basic policy position is that export controls serve the purposes of (i) protecting national security; (ii) honoring international obligations and commitments related to non-proliferation of weapons, nuclear materials, and other dual-use items; and (iii) promoting international cooperation and coordination in areas of shared concern.

 Better Coordination of China’s Export Control Regime

The White Paper states that, following the promulagation of the PRC Export Control Law in 2020, PRC government agencies have improved the coordination of export control rules through the introduction, revision, and termination of various administrative regulations and departmental rules. Furthermore, the MOFCOM official who spoke to state-owned media added that China will continue to promote law-based export controls, to step up efforts to improve supporting regulations under the PRC Export Control Law, and to accelerate the formulation of a unified export control list.

Under current PRC laws and regulations, there is no single, unified export control list. Instead, controlled items (i.e., goods, technologies, and services) are identified under different lists based on the reasons for control, including:

  • military items (including police equipment);
  • dual-use items (chemicals, biological items, missiles, and nuclear materials);
  • other controlled items (precursor chemicals, nuclear materials, civil aviation items, encryption items); and
  • other technologies prohibited or restricted for export from China.

Modernizing the Export Control System

The White Paper discusses several strategies for modernizing China’s export control system, including:

  • Improving license management.
  • Strengthening enforcement capability. MOFCOM, in particular, is strengthening enforement collaboration with the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the General Administration of Customs, among other departments.
  • Developing export control compliance program In 2021, MOFCOM revised and issued the Guiding Opinions on Establishing the Internal Compliance Program for Export Control by Exporters of Dual-use Items. Companies exporting controlled items from China are encouraged to implement internal export control compliance programs.
  • Increasing compliance with international regimes related to the non-proliferation of weapons, nuclear materials, and other dual-use goods, technologies, and services.