A Xiaolong fighter parked on the apron at the Zhuhai Air Show in Guangdong. (Photo/CNS)
In a report on international arms transfers released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on March 18, China has replaced Britain to become the world's fifth-largest exporter of major conventional arms.
The volume of Chinese exports of major conventional weapons rose by 162% from the levels seen during the five-year period between 2003 and 2007 to that for the 2008 to 2012 period. Its share in the volume of international arms exports also jumped from 2% to 5%, according to the report.
Of all the arms exports, 74% were sold to the Asia-Pacific region. While 13% was exported to Africa, Pakistan with its purchases of submarines and fighters as well as other aircraft, contributed 55% to China's total arms exports, the report indicted.
"China's rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions made by Pakistan," said Paul Holtom, director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program.
The Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly pointed out that among all the Chinese weapons sold to Pakistan, the FC-1 Xiaolong fighter, helped generate the highest revenue. The Xiaolong, known as the JF-17 Thunder in Pakistan, was jointly designed in response to Pakistan's demand, which has promoted cooperation between the two countries in terms of scientific research and setting up factories.
Being part of the joint venture for the design, development and manufacturing of the Xiaolong, the Aviation Industry of China was selected as one of the world's top 500 enterprises by Fortune magazine in 2012. This was the fourth time the business group garnered the title.
According to the Southern Weekly, China did not enter the arms market until 1979. During the cold war, Russia withdrew itself from the arms market in the Middle East and had distanced itself from the Iran-Iraq War during 1980 to 1988, providing an opportunity for China to sell arms to international buyers.
With the conclusion of the cold war and the progress of military technology, the portfolio for Chinese arms exports turned from low-end and cheap weapons to medium and high-end arms, such as MBT-2000 tanks and the state-of-the-art MBT-3000. China's tank supply could also satisfy the different needs of buyers from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, the weekly said.
The production of Xiaolong fighters has further helped China open a new market, in which weapons are created and built based on client needs, the journal said.