China’s arms export trade has been booming.
In the 2010-2014 time period, Beijing rose to become the world’s third largest weapons exporter, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), narrowly edging out Germany and France from the top three.
The following graphic shows the expanding scope of China’s arms exports over the last decade-and-a-half.
In the previous 2005-2009 period, China was only the world’s ninth-largest exporter. This capture of international sales is due to Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions, along with a willingness to sell arms to nations that other countries may not feel comfortable dealing with — sanctioned states and human rights abusers such as Iran, Angola, and Sudan. China is itself a sanctioned state in one respect: the US has had an arms embargo on the country stemming from the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
A large part of Beijing’s weapons trade is in sub-Saharan Africa, a region where China has long been attempting to build political influence to gain access to raw materials, as well as emerging labour and consumer markets. In 2014, for instance, China was the only country among the top three exporters to sell weapons to South Sudan, an oil-rich country in the midst of a civil war.
Although China’s exports declined in 2014 from the year before, Beijing’s arms industry is still in a broader upward trend. From 2000 to 2014, the total value of its exports more than tripled and the country has exported at least $US1 billion worth of arms every year since 2009.
Still, despite China’s growing export business, the nation still only accounts for 5% to the global arms trade. The US and Russia, in the 2010-2014 time period, were responsible for 31% and 27% of worldwide arms exports, respectively.
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