Embargoes and sanctions on China

Information on embargoes on China and how to apply for an export licence.


This guide contains information about embargoes and sanctions on China, and provides information for exporters. You can find more general information here on sanctions, embargoes and restrictions, and a list of all the countries where there are current restrictions.

Almost all national governments in the world control the export of goods for various reasons depending on the nature and destinations of the proposed export. The export of strategic goods and technology in particular, are controlled because of various reasons, including:

  • concerns about internal repression, regional instability and other human rights violations
  • concerns about the development of weapons of mass destruction
  • foreign policy and international treaty commitments including as a result of the imposition of European Union (EU) or United Nations (UN) trade sanctions or arms embargoes
  • national and collective security of the UK and its allies

There is currently a partial arms embargo in force on China. This is partially imposed by the EU, and has also been implemented in UK law.

Export control updates

If you intend to export to China, you should keep yourself well informed of the current situation through the media and other information channels.

To keep informed of latest updates about arms embargoes and other changes to strategic export control legislation, please subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to exporters.

The extent of the arms embargo on China

An arms embargo is a ban on the export of ‘arms and related material’ - ie military ammunition, weapons and goods - which may be imposed by a number of organisations, including the UN, the EU or the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. It may also be imposed at a national level.

The UK interprets the scope of the China embargo as:

  • lethal weapons, such as machine guns, large calibre weapons, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles
  • specially designed components of the above and ammunition
  • military aircraft and helicopters, vessels of war, armoured fighting vehicles and other such weapons platforms
  • any equipment which might be used for internal repression

These items are listed on the UK Military List. For more information see the guide on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists - the consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items.

The Military End-Use Control does not apply to China. Read the guide on the Military End-Use Control.

Applying for an export licence to China

Exporters can apply for an export licence for their goods. All applications will be considered by the government on a case-by-case basis in line with the provisions of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. Read the guide on licence decision making - the consolidated criteria.

For details on different export licences available see the guide: licences - export, trade control and transhipment.

When applying for a licence, you should be aware of the current licence processing times by destination. You can find details of licensing statistics on the BIS searchable database website.

In applying and using any licence, exporters should be aware of their responsibilities. Read the guide on compliance and enforcement of export controls.

If you are unsure if your goods are controlled, you should read the guide: [Do I need an export licence?]](/government/admin/detailed-guides/354565).

Sanctions on China key legislation

The arms embargo on China has been imposed by EU laws, and implemented in the UK by statutory instruments.

UN Security Council Resolutions

There are no UN Security Council Resolutions on China.

EU legislation

As a result of repression taking place in China, the European Council agreed a Declaration in Madrid on 27 June 1989 that the EU should impose restrictions on its relations with China:

In the present circumstances, the European Council thinks it necessary to adopt the following measures … interruption by the Member States of the Community of military co-operation and an embargo on trade in arms with China.

There is no EU Common Position on what items are covered under the arms embargo. As a result, each country, including the UK, interprets the embargo in terms of their national laws, decision making processes and regulations.

You can find Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) legislation on the Europa website.

UK legislation

The relevant statutory instrument implemented in UK law is the Export Control Order 2008.

You can also find copies of all UK legislation on the website.

Further information

BIS ECO Helpline

020 7215 4594 or email:

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

Goods checker on the ECO Checker website (registration required)

ECO performance reports and statistics on the BIS Searchable Database website

CFSP legislation on the Europa website

UK legislation search on the website

A to Z countries listing on the UK Trade and Investment website

Financial sanctions guidance on the HM Treasury website

Published 10 September 2012