China is the world’s 2nd-biggest arms exporter, and it’s closing the gap on the US

On Qatar National Day, the Qatar Armed Forces showcased their newly acquired Chinese SY-400 short-range ballistic missile system with a range of 400 kilometers.

The ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative is a Chinese economic and strategic agenda by which the two ends of Eurasia, as well as Africa and Oceania, are being more closely tied along two routes–one overland and one maritime. Supporters suggest that the initiative permits new infrastructure and economic aid to be provided to needy economies. Critics claim that it facilitates Chinese economic and strategic domination of the countries along these routes.

China’s debt diplomacy in the name ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative worked very well. China will build roads, highways, bridges, convention centers, hotels, sea ports, containers terminals, and powerplant with line of credit from Chinese government if the debtors buy Chinese arms. The quality of Chinese arms are always brings questions of IP theft and reverse engineering, but, as far as exports concerned African and Southeast Asian countries will always give up to grease payments and debt diplomacy.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute puts total sales by Chinese arms firms at US$70 billion to US$80 billion in 2017.

Newly available data suggests that China is the world’s second-biggest arms producer, behind the United States and ahead of Russia, a leading conflict and armaments think-tank said on Monday.

JF-17 exported to Myanmar and Nigeria.

A lack of transparency means the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has excluded China from its annual global rankings of arms makers, but it said credible financial information had become available for four major companies.

The data, covering the period from 2015 to 2017, allowed it to compile what it called the most comprehensive picture of Chinese companies’ weapons production to date.

China has also reduced its reliance on foreign weapons and military technology as its own industry expands, according to new research.

china parade
China’s People’s Liberation Army navy sailors ride armored vehicles to Tiananmen Square during the military parade for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, September 3, 2015.

New research suggests China is now the world’s second largest arms producer — after the United States and ahead of Russia — and it is becoming less dependent on foreign weapons and military technology.

In a report released on Monday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated total sales by China’s arms industry had reached US$70 billion to US$80 billion in 2017.

That compares to US$226.6 billion for the United States and US$37.7 billion for Russia, according to the Sweden-based think tank’s Top 100 list of the world’s largest arms companies for that year.

Type 039A/B/C AKA Type 041 Submarine exported to Thailand and Pakistan. A possible discussion is underway with Myanmar to deliver a reforbished Type 039A submarine.

The annual list has not included Chinese companies in the past because of a lack of transparency. But newly available data on some Chinese firms meant four of them made the list and were ranked among the 20 biggest arms and military services companies in 2017, the report said.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has expanded its arms industry and restructured the military as Beijing seeks to modernise its armed forces by 2035 so that they are “world class” by 2049.

SIPRI estimated that China’s military spending reached US$228 billion in 2017 — far more than the official defence budget of US$151 billion. That was because the think tank included spending excluded from the official budget such as an estimated US$30 billion for the People’s Armed Police, which is under military control, US$23 billion for extra military research and development, and US$15 billion for soldiers’ demobilisation and retirement payments.

The four arms companies in the top 20 had estimated combined arms sales of US$54.1 billion — accounting for 24% of China’s military spending in 2017, according to the report.

VT-4 Tank exported to Thailand and Nigeria.

The four companies had combined estimated arms sales of $54.1 billion for 2017, it said, which would put them among the top 20 arms producers in the world.

“Three of the companies would be ranked in the top 10.”

Total U.S. arms sales in 2017 were $226.6 billion, and in Russia, $37.7 billion, according to the think tank’s Top 100 list for that year.

L-15, a copy of Yak-130 exported to Zambian Air Force.

Aircraft and avionics group Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) would rank as the sixth largest arms producer, with estimated 2017 sales of $20.1 billion, while land systems-focused China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO) would place eighth with an estimated $17.2 billion in sales, the institute said.

VN-1 IVF displayed at Gabon National Day Parade.

The other two companies it looked at, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) and China South Industries Group Corporation (CSGC), had estimated sales of $12.2 billion and $4.6 billion, respectively, a spokesperson for the institute said.

Chinese major arms exporters were Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the country’s largest aircraft producer; China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), the leading electronics and components maker for military products like radars and software; China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO), which makes land systems; and armoured vehicle producer China South Industries Group Corporation (CSGC).

Estimated sales by China’s largest arms company, AVIC, reached US$20.1 billion in 2017 — comparable to those of Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and BAE Systems and more than double the total of Russia’s biggest arms maker Almaz-Antey. AVIC was ranked sixth biggest arms producer in the world.

Wing Loong UAV exported to many Middle Eastern countries.

NORINCO was eighth on the global list for 2017, with sales of US$17.2 billion, making it China’s second biggest arms company.

The report also noted that China had reduced its reliance on buying foreign arms as its own industry expanded.

The Type 056 (NATO code name: Jiangdao class) is a class of light frigate designed for patrol, escort, and other general roles in coastal waters. Over 40 hulls in the class have been launched at four shipyards since 2012 for both domestic use and foreign customers. An improved Type 056A with enhanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities was introduced in 2015.

“China is becoming less dependent on imports of foreign weapons and military technology, and its industry has developed to a point where there is an increased demand for its weapons overseas,” it said.

CH-4 UAV exported to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, UAE, Myanmar, and Iraq.

Between the five-year periods of 1999-2003 and 2014-18, China’s imports of major arms fell by 50%, while its exports rose by 208%, according to the report. China has also become the world’s fifth largest supplier of major conventional weapons in that time.

China’s foreign and defense ministries did not respond to faxed requests for comment during a public holiday. Calls to AVIC, NORINCO and CSGC went unanswered and China Electronics Technology Group (CETC) declined to comment.

The Sweden-based think tank has said global expenditure in 2018 hit $1.8 trillion, its highest level since the end of the Cold War, fuelled by increased spending in the United States and China.

U.S. arms sales that year were $246 billion, Russia’s were $36.2 billion and the United Kingdom had $35.1 billion in sales, it said.

But the think tank also said that although more data was available on Chinese arms companies, there was still a lack of transparency that made it difficult to accurately assess the country’s weapons industry.

“Unlike many Western counterparts, the Chinese government limits access to information about all arms companies in the interest of national security,” it said. “As a result, military-related sales are not directly mentioned in any of the publicly available documents cited in this paper. All arms sales figures for Chinese companies remain estimates with a range of uncertainty.”

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