This graphic charts the volume of Russian arms exports to China from 1992-2016. For more on the strengthening China-Russia relationship, see Brian Carlson’s chapter for Strategic Trends 2018 here. For more CSS charts, maps and graphics on proliferation, click here.
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.
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.
While Germany has already put its arms exports to Russia on hold, this kind of decision is still due in France. In particular, one delicate deal, signed by Paris in 2011, is of considerable political and industrial importance: Up to four navy vessels of the Mistral type are to be delivered to Russia for 1.2 billion Euros; the first ship is to be supplied by the end of 2014. This kind of ship can accommodate troops, helicopters and serve as a landing craft for an invasion from sea to land. But it can also function as a swimming headquarters for all sorts of military operations or as a military hospital.