BEIJING: Pakistan is one of the main destinations for China’s arms exports while the country is rising in the arms trade, defence experts said.
Pakistan has recently signed contracts to acquire an undisclosed number of frigates from China and is also planning to buy eight submarines from the country, reports China’s State newspaper Global Times here on Monday.
This doesn’t come as a surprise, given China’s growing capabilities in research and development (R&D) as well as the production of advanced weapons, the daily added, quoting Li Jie, a naval military expert.
China has become a huge player in the global arms industry over the recent years and exports have been shifting from low-end weapons to increasingly advanced ones, though the country applies strict rules to arms exports.
Chinese arms sales have been surging in the past five years, according to an article published in US magazine, The National Interest on September 27. During the period, the country’s exports accounted for 6.2 per cent of the global weapons trade, an increase of 74 per cent compared to 2007-11, the article noted.
In addition, China’s weapons’ exports have moved ahead of those from countries such as Germany, France and the UK, and it is now the world’s third-largest arms exporter, according to the article.
“The days when China lagged behind other countries in weapons design and technology are over. Now we have independent R&D systems and are even ahead of other countries in some major areas such as submarines and aircraft,” he said, pointing to the new fighter jet, the J-20.
The J-20, a stealth fighter jet independently developed by China, has been officially commissioned into military service, Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MOD) was quoted as saying in a report by the Xinhua News Agency on September 28.
The aircraft is the country’s fourth-generation medium and a long-range fighter jet.
China’s exports in recent years have shifted from low-end weapons to more advanced items, such as modern tanks, submarines and unmanned aerial vehicles, Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times.
“Also, China usually exports weapons to countries with no strings attached, and has adopted flexible payment arrangements such as loans, which makes the purchase of weapons easier for some countries,” he noted.
China exports weapons to 55 countries worldwide, covering Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and many of its clients are developing countries.
Although China’s share of the industry has risen rapidly in the past few years, the US is still the largest global arms exporter, accounting for one-third of total exports, according to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in February. The US supplies arms to at least 100 countries around the world, and half of its exports are to the Middle East, the report noted.
“Compared to US military equipment, China’s exports have advantages not only in price but also in after-sales service,” Song said, noting that the country provides technology support and consultancy when selling weapons to other countries.
China also has “a better reputation in arms sales,” said Li, the expert. “For example, the US previously sold F-16 fighter jets to India, which are outdated and overpriced,” he added.
Also, China has further enhanced its competitiveness in the area of advanced weapons, according to Li. “The submarines sold to Pakistan are a good example, as is our self-designed, air-independent propulsion system,” he said.
Some of China’s advanced weapons have shown better-than-expected performance on the global stage compared to ones from major exporters such as the US and Russia. “For instance, China’s J-10 aircraft won’t be weaker than its US counterpart the F-16… Also, the country’s Hongqi missile defence system has capabilities equivalent to the US Patriot missiles,” Song said.
However, the US and Russia have accumulated more real-time battle experience, particularly in the Middle East, according to experts.
“A major difference is that China exports weapons to maintain regional peace, but the US is fuelling instability,” Li noted.
China exports weapons based on three principals – to help enhance the client’s legitimate self-defence capability, not to jeopardize regional and global peace and stability, and not to intervene in the client’s internal politics – the MOD spokesman was quoted as saying in media reports on September 28.
On top of that, China’s weapons exports are in line with UN regulations, and are legal and responsible, the spokesman said.