For the first time, China has replaced Britain to take a place among the top five global arms exporters, with Pakistan being its main buyer, according to a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The volume of Chinese weapons exports soared 162 percent between 2008-12, compared from 2003-07, which increased China’s share in global arms trade to 5 percent, up from 2 percent.
The United Kingdom, which has featured among the top five since at least 1950, is out of the list for the first time. Pakistan was the biggest buyer of Chinese arms, accounting for 55 percent of China’s total exports between 2008 and 2012. Export of weapons is one of the important ways for China to boost its international influence. Its defense budget is only second to that of the United States, and SIPRI estimates that China can catch up with the U.S. by 2025. The United States accounts for 45 percent of the global military spending.
Among exporters, United States was on the top spot with a 30 percent share, Russia was second with 26 percent, Germany occupied third place with 7 percent, while France accounts for 6 percent of global arms exports. Overall, arms exports rose 17 percent in 2008-12 from the previous five year period. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said that the country is a responsible weapons exporter which abides by the international law.
Other than Pakistan, Myanmar purchased 8 percent of China’s arms exports. Myanmar is undergoing a fragile reform as it tries to recover from the political turmoil. Bangladesh bough 7 percent of arms while Morocco, Venezuela and Algeria were other importers of China-made weapons.
China has been spending heavily on technological advancement of its weapons, with some saying that Chinese weapons are now comparable to their Russian counterparts. But according to SIPRI, there is little information available about the performance of Chinese weapons.
India was the largest importer of arms, accounting for 12 percent of global arms imports between 2008 and 2012. Experts said Indian military industry is still underdeveloped so the country depends heavily on imports. China was the second biggest importer with 6 percent of the total volume, Pakistan occupied third place, South Korea which faces constant threat from North Korea was ranked fourth with 5 percent while Singapore occupied the fifth spot. All of the five biggest arms importers were from Asia.
According to the Financial Times, China’s military spending increased 8.3 percent in 2012 from 2011, while the average for Asia as a whole was just 5 percent.