Explain the policy relevance of the U.S. Department of Defense’s decision to blacklist Chinese drone maker DJI.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the broader U.S. national security community has acknowledged the risks posed by DJI for several years, prompting actions that have included adding DJI to the Entity List in 2020 and to the investment blacklist in December 2021 for surveilling Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
However, the DoD’s decision to blacklist DJI is a new recognition for policymakers, whose decisions have largely focused on humanitarian concerns about surveillance. DJI is now considered a “Chinese military company,” meaning its technologies are designed in a way that can support the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s objectives. The undeniable presence of DJI drones in the Russia-Ukraine war, as illustrated by video evidence on Twitter, enabled the DoD to move forward with this designation. After Ukrainian troops called out DJI for contradicting their non-military stance, DJI decided in April to discontinue service in both Russia and Ukraine. Despite this action, Russian troops continue to rely on DJI drones to bolster their information advantage.
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