China Overtakes UK As World’s Fifth Largest Arms Exporter

March 17, 2013Chinaby EW News Desk Team

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China, over the last decade, saw a 162 percent increase in its weapons exports, said a report by a Swedish think-tank on Monday, marking the first time the nation has been among the world’s top five arms exporters since the end of the cold war.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China supplied close to 5 percent of all arms exported from 2008-2012, with the U.S. occupying the top spot (30 percent) ahead of Russia (26 percent), Germany (7 percent), and France (6 percent).

The U.K., on the other hand, was ousted from the fifth spot by the world’s second largest economy, representing the first change in the composition of the top five arms exporters in nearly 20 years.

“China's rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan,” said Dr Paul Holtom, Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. “However, a number of recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states.”

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Among these states include Myanmar, who received 8 percent of China’s weapons exports and Bangladesh, who received another 7 percent. According to the Financial Times, Algeria, Venezuela and Morocco have also bought Chinese-made frigates, aircraft or armoured vehicles in the past several years.

"We can see that all over the world, Chinese arms are now more in demand than they have been in the past," said Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher with SIPRI's Arms Transfers Program.

Although Wezeman believes that new buyers are primarily developing countries acquiring lower-end, less sophisticated arms, he also noted China’s rise as an advanced weapons producer, which may be significantly cheaper than similar arms produced by the U.S..

"If you go to an arms fair nowadays, it is very likely that you will see a significant number of Chinese companies present," Wezeman told the Wall Street Journal.

"This seems to indicate that more advanced and somewhat more expensive Chinese arms are becoming more attractive to buyers who usually would turn to other supplier countries," he added.

Over the same period, Asia and Oceania accounted for almost half (47 percent) of global imports of major conventional weapons. The top five importers of major conventional weapons worldwide notably were all for Asia – India (12 percent), China (6 percent), Pakistan (5 percent), South Korea (5 percent), and Singapore (4 percent).

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Meanwhile deliveries to European countries fell by 20 percent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12. SIPRI speculated that the region-wide austerity had much to do with the arms decline, highlighting that European states were now abandoning or reducing a range of arms import plans.

'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 Programme. An example of this was Greece, whose arms imports fell by 61 percent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12, pushing it from the world’s number 4 importer to number 15.