A number of countries showed interest in the Peashooter, and the Boeing Company began to create an export version of the aircraft. The first plane of its kind (Model 281) got off the ground for the first time in August 1934. The export variant differed from the P-26А only in the absence of a radio set and in pneumatic low-pressure wheels that allowed it to operate on unpaved airfields. Two prototypes and ten production machines were built for China. Deliveries to China were finished in December 1935.
The Chinese Peashooters formed the 17th Fighter Squadron of the 3rd Pursuit Group, which covered Nanking, the former capital of China. The fighters were used by the Chinese to repulse Japanese aerial attacks during the course of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
On 15 August 1937, the Japanese launched their first air raid on Nanking. 20 G3M2 long-range bombers took off from the island of Kyushu and dropped their load on Nanking Airfield in 5 hours. The Chinese, however, had managed to relocate all of their planes in good time, and the bombs destroyed only empty hangars. The remaining fighters, safe and sound, intercepted the Japanese on their way back. As a result, four bombers were shot down, and six more of those that managed to return required some serious repairs. The Japanese gunners claimed that at least 12 enemy planes had been destroyed in the combat. But, in reality, all of the Chinese fighter interceptors returned safely to their airfield.
However, lack of spare parts and battle losses put an end to the career of the P-26 fighters in the Chinese Air Force. In September 1937, the 3rd Pursuit Group ceased to exist.
The first P-26А prototype (Model 281) crashed in China. The second prototype was sent to Spain. In April 1935, the plane was demonstrated in the air over one of the airfields in the vicinity of Madrid. The Republican government decided not to order a batch of fighters, although they bought an unarmed prototype. Two 7.7 mm Vickers machine guns were mounted on the aircraft in containers under the wings, but in October 1938, that plane was destroyed in a battle with the Francoist insurgents.