Tuesday June 2, 2020


March 16, 2015


China has overtaken Germany to become the world’s number three arms exporter, a new study says.

Although its five percent share is rather small compared to the combined 58 percent of exports from the United States and Russia, China’s share of the global arms market rose 143 percent between 2010 and 2014, a period during which the total volume of global arms transfers rose by 16 percent over the previous five years, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report released Monday.

China supplies weapons to 35 countries, with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar receiving the most. Some of the sales included armored vehicles and transport and trainer aircraft to Venezuela, three frigates to Algeria, anti-ship missiles to Indonesia and unmanned combat aerial vehicles, or drones, to Nigeria, which is battling the Boko Haram insurgency.

China’s comparative advantages include its low prices, easy financing and friendliness toward authoritarian governments, said Philip Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the U.S. National Defense University. “Generally speaking, China offers medium quality weapons systems at affordable prices, a combination attractive to cash-strapped militaries in South Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Saunders said. China also reportedly has exploited niche markets such as North Korea and Iran that other nations refuse to sell to.

U.S. and allied military chiefs and lawmakers have expressed concern about China’s fast-growing military capabilities and territorial claims in the Pacific, but its role as an exporter generally garners less attention. While Pentagon leaders focus on the more advanced long-range missiles and other weapons being fielded by China in the Pacific, their potential proliferation is also becoming an issue. “One of the concerns about China is not just that they are modernizing—we don’t anticipate a conflict with China, certainly—but [that] they export,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons’ buyer, told Congress last year.

As for China itself, Beijing immediately put out a press release refuting SIPRI’s report. “The Chinese government always takes a prudent and responsible attitude with regard to military exports including small arms and light weapons,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei at a regular press briefing. Hong said that China strictly abides by the principle of not damaging international and regional peace and stability and noninterference in the domestic affairs of recipient countries and also that it never exports arms to non-state entities. He further noted that China also strictly abides by the principle of asking recipient countries to provide proof of final purpose and users.

China’s major news outlets followed this lead. Those that did publish articles about SIPRI’s report focused mainly on the statistics for the United States and Russia; most ignored China’s place on the list altogether.

For more information on this topic, see the following links:

SIPRI Report

WSJ – “China Overtakes Germany as World’s Third-Largest Exporter”

Seattle Times “Study: China has grown to world’s 3rd-biggest arms exporter”

Financial Times – “Chinese arms sales surge 143% in 5 years”

TIME“China Edges Out Germany to Become the World’s Third Largest Arms Exporter”

People’s Daily“U.S. leads upward trend in global arms exports: research institute”

Xinhua“China refutes int’l institute report on its arms export”

BBC (Chinese edition/中文网) – 中國成為世界第三大武器出口國

Hexun (和讯网)SIPRI:中国成为全球第三大武器出口国

Wall Street China (华尔街见闻)取代德国 中国成全球第三大武器出口国

Compiled and edited by Emily O’Brien