China is now the third largest exporter of arms in the world, with Pakistan its biggest customer, and Saudi Arabia is leading the militarization of the Middle East.
Pakistan is the largest buyer of Chinese weapons, but European nations have dramatically reduced arms purchases in recent years, writes Richard Norton-Taylor for The Guardian.
Pakistan buying huge amounts of arms from China
According to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Communist China has almost doubled arms exports in the last decade. Beijing has the world’s largest armed forces and now has the capability of producing advanced weapons rather than depending on imports.
China has a 5.9% share of the global arms market, which is significantly less than the U.S. and Russia. However Beijing is making strides, and Pakistan is taking advantage.
“Pakistan was the main recipient of Chinese exports, accounting for 35%, followed by Bangladesh and Myanmar, accounting for 20% and 16% respectively (all three states are neighbors of India, the leading importer of arms in the region),” the report said.
India leads global arms import race
Beijing and Islamabad describe themselves as “all-weather friends,” as testament to their close relationship. Reports claim that China provided help in setting up Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile systems in addition to conventional weapons.
According to SIPRI, India was the largest importer of arms from 2011-2015. “In 2011-15 India’s imports were three times greater than those of either of its regional rivals: China and Pakistan,” it said.
India has struggled to develop its domestic arms industry, whereas China continues to surge ahead. As a result Chinese arms imports fell by 25% 2011-15 compared to 2006-10.
“However, China remains partly dependent on imports for some key weapons and components, including large transport aircraft and helicopters, and engines for aircraft, vehicles and ships,” continued the report.
Beijing bought air defense systems and 24 combat jets from Russia in 2015. However further investment in the domestic arms industry could see Chinese imports reduce even further.
Saudi Arabia leads militarization of the Middle East
The five biggest weapons exporters from 2011-15 were the US, Russia, China, France and Germany, which made up 74% of total exports. The U.S. and Russia dominate the market with 58% of total exports.
“The ?ve biggest importers in 2011-15 were India, Saudi Arabia, China, the UAE and Australia. Together, they received 34% of all arms imports,” the report added.
Over the past five years Saudi Arabia has bought 275% more arms than from 2006-10. The development is part of a wider trend in the Middle East, where arms imports rose by 61%.
British firms sold more arms to Saudi Arabia than any other country, but Riyadh bought more arms from the United States than any other exporter. The weapons are implicated in the controversial bombing campaign in Yemen.
“A coalition of Arab states is putting mainly US- and European-sourced advanced arms into use in Yemen,” said Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with SIPRI. “Despite low oil prices, large deliveries of arms to the Middle East are scheduled to continue as part of contracts signed in the past five years.”
More than 100 new export licenses have been approved for British arms, even since the coalition started bombing Yemen around 12 months ago.
Another big arms importer is Vietnam, which has been importing mainly Russian weapons in the face of increased tensions in the South China Sea. Arms supplies to the country have shot up by 699% in five years.