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Strategic Contours of China’s Arms Exports

Image courtesy of Manuel Faisco/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 11 September 2017.

Synopsis

China’s global geopolitical aspirations, backed by growing economic clout, shape the direction and character of its military-technological choices and China’s strategic interest to strengthen its position in global arms markets.

Commentary

Over the past decade, China has been able to accelerate its transition from a large arms importer to a major exporter, with a potential to become one of the world’s leading arms exporters, by providing low cost and affordable service and upgrade packages without geopolitical strings.

According to recent data by SIPRI, the Stockholm-based think-tank, Chinese exports of major arms have increased by 74 percent between 2012 and 2016, and its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 percent, making it the world’s third-largest supplier in the world, after the United States and Russia. The geographic spread and number of recipients of Chinese weapons exports have also increased. In 2012-16, China delivered major arms to 44 countries – more than 60 percent of China’s exports went to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar and another 22 percent went to Africa. China also delivered major arms to ex-Soviet states for the first time, including the 2016 delivery of surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems HQ9 (FD-2000) to Turkmenistan.