China’s Norinco, Poly Group And Huawei are supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine with raw materials and dual-use technology

Men sit by a display of missiles models from Chinese manufacturer Norinco Group on the eve of the ninth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai on Nov. 12, 2012. Photo Philippe Lopez

The United States has determined that some Chinese companies are providing non-lethal assistance to Russia for use in the Ukraine war, and officials are noting their concern to the Chinese government, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Speaking on anonymity, the source said: “What we’re seeing is non-lethal military assistance and economic support that stops short of wholesale sanctions evasion.”

While China has made no secret of its ambitions to be a major player in international politics, its actions have largely followed suit with the trajectory of the decisions of the 20th Century powers.

The China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, officially abbreviated as Norinco, is a Chinese defense corporation that manufactures a diverse range of civil and military products. Norinco mainly deals with defense products, petroleum and mineral resources development, international engineering contracting, optronic products, civilian explosives and chemical products, sports arms and equipment, vehicles and logistics operations, etc.

Norinco – formally known as China North Industries Group (CNGC)- was established in 1999. It consists of at least 46 member units with several subordinate companies, joint ventures and associate companies.

Experts believe that this information shows the complex interaction between the civilian and military sections, with supposedly civilian enterprises manufacturing equipment or components for the military or providing them with raw materials. Experts hope this will make policymakers and export control departments more aware of the issue of exporting equipment and technology to/from China.

China Poly Group Corporation is the parent of hundreds of subsidiaries — the exact number is a closely guarded secret. It has construction, real estate, resource extraction, fishing, military and entertainment firms. It also owns the world’s No. 3 art auction house.

It would be easy to describe the Beijing-based conglomerate as a bellwether firm in China’s state-dominated economic landscape. Its arms exports to troubled spots such as Myanmar or Zimbabwe make way for resource extraction projects for Chinese-owned firms. Its supremacy in Chinese cultural industries provides Beijing with an arm to export its “soft power” narrative overseas. 

On the surface it looks like a state-run outfit that checks off all of Beijing’s political, corporate and military boxes. But that masks the fractious relationships within the cliques that make up the country’s ruling elite. Analysts say the reality is Poly’s one cog in a machine run by powerful vested interests that are often in direct competition with each other. 

The United States has warned the Chinese government of the consequences should China provide weaponry to Russia for use against Ukraine.

U.S. officials view the current activity as concerning and believe it is “a significantly scaled-down version of the PRC’s initial plan, which was to sell lethal weapons systems for use on the battlefield,” the source said.

The source said it is unclear if the Chinese government is aware of the activity.

The source said that U.S. officials are reaching out to Chinese authorities through diplomatic channels.

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