BEIJING, March 18 China has become the world's
fifth-largest arms exporter, a respected Sweden-based think tank
said on Monday, its highest ranking since the Cold War, with
Pakistan the main recipient.
China's volume of weapons exports between 2008 and 2012 rose
162 percent compared to the previous five year period, with its
share of the global arms trade rising from 2 percent to 5
percent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
China replaces Britain in the top five arms-dealing
countries between 2008 and 2012, a group dominated by the United
States and Russia, which accounted for 30 percent and 26 percent
of weapons exports, SIPRI said.
"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 Programme, said in a
The shift, outlined in SIPRI's Trends in International Arms
Transfers report, marks China's first time as a top-five arms
exporter since the think tank's 1986-1990 data period.
Now the world's second-largest economy, China's rise has
come with a new sense of military assertiveness with a growing
budget to develop modern warfare equipment including aircraft
carriers and drones.
At the Zhuhai air show in southern China in November,
Chinese attack helicopters, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles
and air defences were on public show for the first time.
SIPRI maintains a global arms transfers database base that
tracks arms exports back to the 1950s. It averages data over
five-year periods because arms sales vary by year.
"Pakistan - which accounted for 55 percent 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
Myanmar, which has been undergoing fragile reforms that the
United States thinks could help counter Beijing's influence in
the region, received 8 percent of China's weapons exports.
Bangladesh received 7 percent of the arms, and Algeria,
Venezuela and Morocco have bought Chinese-made frigates,
aircraft or armoured vehicles in the past several years.
Beijing does not release official figures for arms sales.
Germany and France ranked third and fourth on the arms
exporter list. China followed only India in the acquisition of
arms, though its reliance on imports is decreasing as it ramps
up weapons production capabilities at home.
After decades of steep increases in military spending and
cash injections into domestic defence contractors, experts say
some Chinese-made equipment is now comparable to Russian or
Western counterparts, though accurate information about the
performance of Chinese weapons is scarce.
China faces bans on Western military imports, dating back to
anger over its crushing of pro-democracy protests in and around
Tiananmen Square in 1989. That makes its domestic arms industry
crucial in assembling a modern military force that can enforce
claims over Taiwan and disputed maritime territories.
China has faced off recently with its Southeast Asian
neighbours and Japan over conflicting claims to strings of
islets in the South China Sea and East China Sea, even as the
United States executes a military pivot towards the Pacific.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)