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China joins top five global arms exporters

By Li Xiaokun and Pu Zhendong | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-19 07:44

China has replaced Britain as the world's fifth-largest arms exporter, while the US and Russia still dominate global arms sales, a Swedish think tank said on Monday.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's report said the volume of Chinese arms exports rose by 162 percent between 2008 and 2012, compared with the previous five-year period.

China's share of global weapons exports increased from 2 percent to 5 percent in that time. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said China has been responsible and prudent regarding arms exports. Beijing has abided by international laws and avoided hampering regional stability.

"China's arms exports are guided by three principles: They must be helpful to the recipients' self-defense; they should not harm global and regional peace and stability; they should not interfere with other countries' domestic affairs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing on Monday.

Experts said China's surging arms exports have benefited from improving technology and productivity in its arms industry and competitive prices. In the high-end arms market, it has no advantage, they said.

Britain dropped out of the top five for the first time since at least 1950, when the institute began collecting data. China was the eighth-largest arms exporter in the last five years.

This is also the first time since the end of the Cold War that a state from outside Europe and North America has appeared among the five largest arms exporters. According to the institute, 55 percent of China's exports went to Pakistan, followed by Myanmar with 8 percent and Bangladesh with 7 percent.

"China's rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan," said Paul Holtom, director of the institute's Arms Transfers Program.

"A number of recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states."

The recipients include Algeria, Venezuela and Morocco.

"In light of the recent tensions in US-Pakistani relations, it should come as no surprise that Islamabad is increasing its imports from Beijing," Daniel Katz, a former analyst with the US Department of Defense, said in a debate on the changing global arms market in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs magazine.

"After decades of steep increases in military spending and cash injections into domestic defense contractors, experts say some Chinese-made equipment is now comparable to Russian or Western counterparts," Reuters reported.

However, Su Hao, a professor of security affairs at China Foreign Affairs University, said China's bigger market share is the result of growing technology and productivity in its arms industry and "reasonable price".

"In higher-end markets, we lag far behind mature exporters such as the US."

The US and Russia kept the largest share of the world's arms sales in the 2008-12 period, with the US taking 30 percent and Russia 26 percent, the report said. Germany ranked third with 7 percent and France fourth with 6 percent.

The volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons was 17 percent higher in the 2008-12 period than 2003-07. As for arms buyers, the institute said Asia is the most prosperous market in the world. The top five importers of major conventional weapons are all Asian countries - India, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore.

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