The international arms market has seen a growing number of Chinese competitors that are beginning to challenge U.S. and Russian market dominance, especially in sales to the Middle East. Chinese arms sales include army, navy and air force platforms, and are slowly becoming the market standard.
A high cost-performance ratio is a major selling point for made-in China defense equipment. Case in point example: drones. Also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Chinese drones are well known for the performance and versatility, and are more cost-effective than designs from Western countries.
The U.S. RAND Corporation published a report on China’s arms exports, claiming that the J-10 fighter jet sold for less than US$40 million; whereas by contrast, the U.S. F-16, a similar class aircraft in active service, costs US$65 million.
The RAND report also took note that China’s 053-class frigate is pegged near US$50 million. Thai naval authorities, who have already placed an order for the vessel, commented that the ship costs one quarter of a similar Germen frigate, but has 90 percent of the latter’s combat ability.
AVIC Yiloong UAV in 2012 Zhuhai Airshow
In addition to reliable quality, Chinese weapons are easy to operate and maintain, making them well-suited for developing countries, especially those in Africa, whose military forces generally lack expertise. Many Chinese weapon exports are compatible with Western manufactured parts, making it easy to refit the equipment in time-restricted situations.
By contrast, Western manufactured weapons are extremely cost prohibitive. Their equally expensive after sales service limits the number and scope of their clientele.
Expanding production channels and an improved industrial structure have allowed Chinese defence contractors to cooperate with other countries on key project research and manufacturing.
FC-1 fighter jets,K-8 jet trainer and light attack aircraft result from joint research and design between China and Pakistan. Egyptian and Bolivian air forces have placed large orders for these aircrafts.
China refuses to see military arms sales as a political tool, and will not follow the U.S. example of leveraging arms exports for strategic advantages.
China follows three principles regarding arms sales: improve buyer’s self-defence capabilities; maintain policy of non-interference in regional affairs; non-interference in county’s internal affairs.
These three principles exemplify China’s belief in being a responsible global power.
Despite an opportunity to profit from arms exports, China has been responsible in choosing arms export partners. China abides by all UN resolutions regarding defense equipment exports, and believes in “combating violence with military deterrence.”
China has a small arms export volume, consisting of defensive and conventional weapons. China has made it clear that it will only sell weapons to sovereign states, rather than non-state entities or individuals, nor will China ship any military items to countries and regions on the UN Security Council’s embargo list. The users of Chinese arms exports are required to agree that they will not resell the weapons after purchase.
In terms of weapons of massive destruction (WMD), China echoes the international community that the sale of WMDs would negatively impact world stability, and jeopardize China’s own security. Hence, China has never supported, encouraged or helped another country develop WMDs. As a member state in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, China exercises strict control on nuclear exports.