China has become the fifth largest exporter of major conventional arms worldwide, according to new data on international arms transfers published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Overall, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons grew by 17 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12.
The five largest arms suppliers are the America (30 % of global arms exports), Russia (26 %), Germany (7 %), France (6 %) and China (5 per cent).
“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.”
Several countries in Asia and Oceania have in recent years ordered or announced plans to acquire long-range strike and support systems that would make them capable of projecting power far beyond their national borders. Last year notably saw the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia to India and the commissioning of China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning.
Other regional players are seeking to establish or strengthen submarine fleets, including several South East Asian countries and Australia, which is also acquiring large surface warships and combat aircraft. These developments come at a time of heightening tensions over territorial disputes in the East and South China seas.
Deliveries to European countries fell by 20 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12.
During 2012 Italy and the Netherlands reduced their orders for F-35 combat aircraft from the USA, while Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania dropped plans for newly produced combat aircraft in favour of second-hand options.
Imports by North African states increased by 350 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12, which was almost entirely responsible for a doubling (by 104 per cent) in imports by Africa as a whole.
Sub-Saharan imports increased by just 5 per cent. Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa imported only small numbers of major weapons, but many of these have been used in internal conflicts or in interventions in conflicts in neighbouring states, most recently in Mali.