China has overtaken Germany to become the world’s third largest arms exporter.
Also, it has cut its dependence on imports by producing more sophisticated weapons, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing a new study.
China’s arms exports rose 143 percent between the five-year period to 2009 and the corresponding period to 2014, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which is closely watched by policymakers and defense contractors.
State-owned defense suppliers such as Norinco Group have become prominent at arms fairs, opening new markets beyond established customers in South Asia.
For example, the group has been selling armed drones to Nigeria in its battle against Boko Haram.
United States lawmakers and allied military chiefs have expressed concern about China’s fast-growing military capabilities and territorial claims in the Pacific.
However, its role as an exporter has attracted less attention.
China accounts for just 5 percent of a global export market worth more than US$300 billion a year, far behind the United States with 31 percent and Russia with 27 percent in the 2010-2014 period.
Still, China’s share has more than doubled over the past decade.
Germany continued to slip in the global ranking, with arms exports falling 43 percent in the five years to 2014 compared with the 2005 to 2009 period, the institute said.
Arms makers such as Rheinmetall A.G. have struggled amid more restrictive export policies.
“The equipment you get nowadays from China is much better than 10-15 years ago,” said SiemonWezeman, a senior researcher at the institute.
Customers who used to buy Western or Russian equipment can now turn to China and often secure weapons of similar quality at far lower costs, he said.
A proposed US$3.4 billion deal to sell a missile-defense system to Turkey, while not finalized, shows how Chinese arms makers are winning business outside their traditional markets, as well as from countries shunned by Western rivals.
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar accounted for two-thirds of China’s arms exports. Africa has become a key market, with the institute identifying sales by China to 18 countries on the continent.
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