The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think tank, released a report on December 6 reading that the sales of arms and military services of the global sector’s 25 largest companies for which data are available totaled US$361 billion last year, an 8.5 percent increase over 2018.
US companies still dominated, with twelve of them accounting for 61 percent of the combined arms sales of the top 25 arms companies that were reviewed. The combined revenue of the four Chinese companies in the top 25 accounted for 16 percent, the six West European companies together accounted for 18 percent, and two Russian companies totaled revenue of US$13.9 billion.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, said in an interview on Monday, that calling China the second-largest arms seller is an overestimation and reinforces the false assertion of the so-called “China threat”. In fact, Chinese companies’ arms sales not only fall substantially behind that of the top-ranking US companies, but also behind western European counterparts in terms of revenue.
According to Song, “the second-ranking arms seller should probably still be Russia.” More than half of Russian military enterprises have not been included in SIPRI’s statistics, said Vasily Kashin, a military expert at the Higher School of Economics, Russia’s National Research University, in Moscow, when interviewed by Izvestia on the December 7.
According to SPIRI’s report, the US and Europe’s military product sales soared in 2019. China had a mild increase while Russia saw a decline. The revenue of Chinese military enterprises didn’t grow as fast as the world in general (8.5 percent), and the four Chinese companies registered a total income growth of 4.8 percent last year.
China’s weapons and equipment exports have indeed increased in recent years.
The increase is first and foremost ascribed to greater strength. During an interview with Russia’s Sputnik News on December 7, an expert with the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences said that “the high ranking of Chinese military enterprises is primarily related with China’s rapid scientific, technological and industrial development.” China used to export defense products for their low price, but now its products are very popular and highly reputed in the international market for their substantial technological advancement, such as reconnaissance-attack UAVs, submarines and light frigates.
At the same time, as an interviewed expert who requested anonymity pointed out, unlike the US, a global hegemonic power, China’s arms sales display the following different characteristics.
First, China always takes into account the foreign partners’ interests and earnestly fulfills its obligations to them, earning itself the reputation as a reliable partner in economic and trade relations, communications and arms sales. The buyers’ rising confidence in China and China-made weapons has helped Chinese companies rank among the world’s leading exporters. In comparison, the US doesn’t always follow the “fair competition” principle when selling weapons and equipment to other countries. It would, more often than not, impose the deals upon them, especially its European and other allies.
Second, the US often attaches political strings to arms deals to suppress its competitors. Still, China’s weapon and equipment sales never come with additional conditions – the buyer and the seller are on an equal footing.
Third, it must be particularly pointed out that the weapons and equipment sold by China are primarily defensive. On the contrary, the US tends to instigate regional conflicts by selling weapons and equipment to relevant parties while making huge profits on the side. Then it would take advantage of the regional turbulence to enhance its presence there.
Of course, it still should be noted that the US and Russia have already formed a monopoly in certain areas of international weapons and equipment market. Compared with America’s full-spectrum weapon exports, as Song Zhongping pointed out, China’s arms export is a little lopsided, with exports basically limited to each company’s own strengths, instead of multi-field and diversified series of products.