International governance of export controls should return to true multilateralism

Containers are being loaded onto and unloaded from freighters at a terminal in Lianyungang Port, east China’s Jiangsu province, Dec. 7, 2021. (Photo by Geng Yuhe/People’s Daily Online)

For a long time, export controls, as an important practice for maintaining international security and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, have played a crucial role in safeguarding world peace, stability and development.


In recent years, however, certain Western countries have misused export controls as a political tool for their own ends, and even engaged in unilateral export controls under the guise of multilateralism, seriously infringing on the rights of other countries to the peaceful use of controlled items, and to the participation in normal international science and technology exchanges and cooperation.


A recently-released white paper titled “China’s Export Controls” expounded on the country’s position on export controls as well as its system and practice in improving export control governance, calling on countries to actively promote the implementation of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory international export controls and make international coordination on export controls better reflect the wishes and interests of the majority of countries in the world in a more balanced manner.


It is of great significance for enhancing the role of international export controls as an international tool serving world peace and development and benefiting all mankind.


As the COVID-19 epidemic runs riot across the globe, profound changes unseen in a century quicken their pace, and the world has entered a period of turbulence and transformation. At the same time, international export controls have run into severe challenges.


The unilateral export control measures adopted by a handful of countries are gradually eroding the current international order based on the international law and increasingly deviating from the original intention of international export controls to serve common security and development.


For certain countries represented by the U.S., abusing export control measures has become their tool for achieving political goals in recent years.


The U.S. has generalized the concept of national security, and employed its military strength, financial hegemony and advantages in high technology to exert extreme pressure on its so-called “enemies” and “adversaries”, and even impose long-arm jurisdiction on third parties, seriously blocking the sustainable development of other countries.


By creating a wide variety of export control blacklists, the U.S. has arbitrarily suppressed high-tech companies in other countries, undermining the security and stability of global industrial chain, supply chain, and value chain.


It has tried to propagate unilateralism in the name of multilateralism by seeking allies to form cliques and alliances, obstructing normal international scientific and technological exchanges and cooperation.


The country has even imposed unilateral controls and sanctions on other countries and blatantly interfered in the internal affairs of others on the pretexts of “human rights” and “democracy”.


International governance of export controls has always been oriented toward promoting common security and development in the world, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery remains a major issue concerning mankind’s survival.


Fulfilling international nonproliferation obligations is the bottom line of the international governance of export controls. Countries should continuously assume their international responsibilities strictly and stay true to their relevant commitments in sensitive areas such as nuclear, biological, chemical weapons, and missiles, and jointly crack down on illegal activities.


International governance of export controls also needs to keep a balance between global security and development. It should be noted that development is the right of all countries in the world, not a privilege of certain countries and cliques.


While fulfilling international nonproliferation obligations, developed countries should fully respect the rights and interests of developing countries as well as their needs to push ahead with national development and improve people’s well-being through the peaceful use of controlled items and scientific and technological advances.


Countries, especially developing countries, should enjoy the legitimate and legal rights to the peaceful use of controlled items free from discrimination. Some Western countries should abide by international economic and trade rules, and not link complete civilian objects to fictitious military uses and set up obstacles to normal international scientific and technological exchanges and economic and trade cooperation.


They should ensure the safe and smooth operation of the global industrial chain and supply chain, carry out international economic and trade cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and win-win results, and make positive contributions to global sustainable development.


The recent white paper on China’s export controls has demonstrated to the world the country’s firm determination to commit itself to world peace and development and to practice true multilateralism.


As it advances wider, broader and deeper opening-up, China, driven by the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, will actively promote the implementation of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory international export controls together with the international community.

Wu Jinhuai, researcher at China Arms Control and Disarmament Association

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