The Dragon Muscles In: Growing Number Of Victories In Chinese Arms Exports

Proudly Made in China Apart from its Russian engines, the J-20 is completely made and designed in China. And even then, future J-20s will be flying with a more powerful domestic engine, the WS-15, by 2021. While the J-20 isn’t for sale (yet?), other advanced Chinese weapons are finding eager buyers. | Andreas Rupprecht


Chinese missiles, tanks and drones find foreign buyers

In line with its increasingly sophisticated domestic arsenal, China’s arms exports have become much more technically competitive in the last 10 years; the 2015 U.S. Defense Department’s Annual Report on the PLA even stated that China’s ground systems in particular are globally competitive or nearly globally competitive. With selling points of low cost and affordable service, lack of geopolitical strings and upgrade packages, China has become the world’s third largest arms exporter behind the US and Russia. With a series of recent contracting wins against Russian firms, it looks to expand its market share.

While Turkmenistan’s military arsenal is still largely Soviet-era Russian weaponry, the major purchase of strategic Chinese air defense missiles despite the ubiquitous availability of similar Russian systems suggests that Turkmenistan is looking to diversify its defense purchases. Such a move could be driven by unease over Russian activities in Ukraine, as well as China becoming the largest customer of Turkmen natural gas. China’s increased economic clout in Central Asia is clearly giving it the ability to smooth over negative Russian reactions to a similar increase in Chinese security clout.

In an even more high profile victory, Kazakhstan has chosen to purchase Pterodactyl WJ-1 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Shown on Kazakh state television, the Pterodactyl was displayed during a Kazakh Air Force open house without weapons, but already equipped with two wing-mounted pylons for anti-tank missiles and small bombs. Built by the Chengdu Aviation Industries Group, the Pterodactyl can carry a payload of 200kg and a powerful camera turret. Given American export restrictions on armed UAVs, and Russia’s inability to produce such drones, China is the logical provider for Kazakhstan’s unmanned combat needs.

The story of China’s growing wins in arms exports is as much about the technology itself as increased economic ties and geopolitical considerations. Both buyer and seller take these into consideration when striking a deal. In turn, the sales can then deepen relationships, as buying weapons also means buying training, upgrades, and technical support over the long term.

Full article: The Dragon Muscles In: Growing Number Of Victories In Chinese Arms Exports (Popular Science)

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