China Surges Past Britain To Become The Fifth Largest Arms Exporter In The World

China Army

Photo: Guang Niu/Getty Images

For the first time, China has become the world’s fifth biggest arms exporter – its highest ranking since the cold war – pushing the United Kingdom from the top five exporters list, a Sweden-based research institute said Monday. According to a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Chinese arms exports have increased by a whopping 162 per cent in the five years 2008-2012, compared to the previous five-year period. China’s share in the international weapons sale rose to 5 per cent from 2 per cent, taking it to fifth position on the global arms exporters ranking, from its earlier eighth ranking, while the volume of global exports of major conventional weapons grew by 17 per cent between 2003-2007 and 2008-12.

“China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states,” Paul Holtom, director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program, said in a statement.

The report that indicates the recent trends and developments in the weapons transfers highlights the growth in the number of important recipient states. According to the data, arms sales to Pakistan accounted for more than half of the total Chinese weapon exports.

“Pakistan – which accounted for 55 per cent of Chinese arms exports – is likely to remain the largest recipient of Chinese arms in the coming years due to large outstanding and planned orders for combat aircraft, submarines and frigates,” SIPRI said.

The replacement of the U.K. marks the first change in the composition of the top five positions in the arms exporters list in past 20 years and it is the first time Britain failed to make in the top five since 1950.

The top five arms exporters list is populated by the U.S., which has 30 per cent of the export market share, Russia – with 26 per cent market share, followed by Germany with 7 per cent and France with 6 per cent share in the global exports.  The top five importers for the 2008-2012 include India with 12 per cent share in international arms imports, China with 6 per cent share, Pakistan and South Korea sharing 3rd position with five per cent share in global imports followed by Singapore.

China’s rise as a major arms exporter underscores the country’s emergence as one of the major arms developer and supplier. China, the second largest economy in the world had increased its budget allocation for military spending to modernize its military capabilities this year. However, China’s reliance on the arms imports has come down with the country depending on indigenously developed warfare equipments. Besides, the western sanctions against weapons imports by China after the 1989-Tiananmen Square tragedy also has led to the flourishing domestic arms industry.

The report notes the significant increase in global arms procurement by the Asia and Oceania group of companies, which accounted for 47 per cent of the total arms imports during the 2008-2012.

Meanwhile, the euro zone crisis has impacted the arms procurement by the European countries with data showing a 20 per cent decrease in weapon imports to European countries between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012. The slowdown in the economy has also forced some of the European countries to downsize the combat fleets by selling the surplus military equipments, as part of cost controlling.

“With the financial crisis in Europe, the withdrawal from Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, we can expect to see Europe trying to export a considerable volume of surplus military equipment,” said Mark Bromley, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program.

Greece, which is battling the recession and economic slowdown, curtailed the imports by 61 per cent between 2003-2007 and 2008-12, pushing it from importer rank of 4 to 15.

The report also highlights the notable developments in global weapon exchanges during 2008-2012. Imports from Russia accounted for 71 per cent of Syria’s arm imports in the period, while the Arab states of the Gulf procured 7 per cent of the total global arms sold.

African imports of arms almost doubled in 2008-2012, while imports from North African states rose by 350 per cent.

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