U.S. Commerce Department blacklists DJI for alleged role in “human rights abuses” in China

DJI is a brand that has become almost synonymous with drones over the past couple of years, with a reported global market share of 70 percent meaning that they are the dominant drone company in the world. However, the Chinese company is set for arguably its most stern test yet—the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Specifically, the U.S. Commerce Department has just added DJI, along with a bunch of other Chinese companies, to its blacklist. DJI, AGCU Scientech, China National Scientific Instruments and Materials, and Kuang-Chi Group were blacklisted for allegedly enabling “wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance”.

The aforementioned companies also stand accused of facilitating exports from China that “aid repressive regimes around the world, contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests.”

In other words, DJI is now classified as a national security concern by the U.S. government. This latest move appears to be an escalation of the U.S.’ ongoing efforts to ban Chinese tech companies due to various security concerns—including the infamous case of Huawei. As a result, blacklisted companies are not allowed to deal with U.S. counterparts.

What does this mean for potential DJI customers?

As it stands, DJI has reportedly maintained that its drones will continue to be sold in the U.S. The company doesn’t give much information on how its blacklisting will affect supply chains and manufacturing, but expressed disappointment at the decision.

“DJI is disappointed in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision. Customers in America can continue to buy and use DJI products normally. DJI remains committed to developing the industry’s most innovative products that define our company and benefit the world.”

This would be a marked change from how Huawei handled things, for some comparison. At the time, Huawei pulled out of the American market, and the company has since developed alternatives to Google products (AKA American products)—to some degree of success. However, the tech giants have undoubtedly suffered as a result, which might be indicative of DJI’s path ahead.

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Given DJI’s status as one of—if not the most—popular drone-maker in the world, the Commerce Department’s latest decision will throw a spanner into the works for companies throughout the U.S. Besides drones, DJI also manufactures and sells gimbals, action cameras, and various other products that are widely used around the world.

Meanwhile, back in January 2020, the U.S. Interior Department grounded 800 Chinese-made drones (and cancelled future purchases) after security concerns were raised by the government. Additionally, the U.S. Justice Department also banned the purchase of drones manufactured outside the U.S. in October, while certifying the use of other models from competitors such as Parrot and Skydio for governmental use.

This also comes after similar moves to ban WeChat and TikTok in the U.S.—although the two popular apps are still available for now. It’s worth noting that President-elect Joe Biden will take office from the 20th of January 2021, and we’ll have to wait and see if U.S. government’s current stance on Chinese companies remains for 2021.

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