The People’s Republic of China not only is producing a wide
array of weapons systems for its own forces, but also is exporting
versions of its military hardware to other nations under the wary
eye of the United States.
In the post Cold War era, countries are a lot more commercially
oriented and do not sell solely to their ideological peers, explained
David Isenberg, an arms control analyst with the British American
Security Information Council in Washington, D.C.
“They are in it to make a buck and make a profit,”
Isenberg said. Despite intense competition in the international
arms market, China manages to sell technologies that are less sophisticated
than what other Western countries have to offer, Isenberg said,
especially when it comes to systems integration.
Nevertheless, certain countries look favorably upon China’s
conventional weapons exports because “they are good enough,”
said Isenberg. The technology “is reasonably effective; it
is reasonably easy to operate,” he added. A lot of the buyers
do not have the need for sophisticated technologies or can’t
afford Western-exported technology, so Chinese equipment “might
look pretty good to them,” he explained.
Chinese companies sometimes are at a disadvantage when striking
deals, because unlike Western firms, they cannot offer “political
sweeteners” and offset deals to customers, said Isenberg.
On the black list for arms proliferation, China in recent years
has made efforts to comply with most arms control regimes especially
those relating to nuclear, biological and chemical material, according
While China has taken steps to regulate its arms manufacturers,
it still has a long way to go, said Matt Schroeder, an analyst for
the Federation of American Scientists, in an article entitled “Of
Red Parakeets and Dragon Fire: The Nonproliferation Case for Maintaining
E.U. Arms Embargo on China.” A decision by the European Union
to lift a 15-year old arms embargo to China has raised strong opposition
in the United States. After clashes with the United States and China’s
adoption of a law to invade the island of Taiwan should it seek
independence from the mainland, the E.U. increasingly has grown
hesitant of lifting the controversial embargo.
In 1996, the U.S. intelligence community tagged China as the most
significant supplier of weapons of mass destruction-related goods
and technologies to foreign countries. While Beijing’s efforts
to stem these efforts have yielded some results, Chinese firms continue
to engage in “problematic” transfers, Schroeder wrote.
One of these companies, state-controlled China North Industries
Corporation, came under fire in 1996 for the shipment of 2,000 fully
automatic Chinese AK-47s to the Unites States, and offers of 60mm
mortar rocket launchers to U.S. street gangs.
Norinco also sold missile technology to Iran, according to the
U.S. State Department. In May 2003, the Bush administration slapped
a two-year ban on Norinco imports, said Schroeder. The ban cost
the company $100 million a year in lost U.S. sales. Even though
Norinco has been described as a serial proliferator by the State
Department, the Chinese government has taken no action to halt activities,
Since its establishment in 1980, one of Norinco’s main focuses
has been exporting military technology. Norinco basically is the
export arm of the republic’s Ministry of Ordnance Industry.
Norinco provides everything ranging from armored vehicles, air defense
systems and assault weapons.
A new 6x6 19-ton armored vehicle, for example, has a turret armed
with a 105 mm rifle that can fire NATO or Chinese ammunition. It
has a 7.62 mm machine gun and a 12.7 mm anti-aircraft gun.
Norinco also developed a weapons suite mounted on an 8x8 truck
to protect airfields, logistics centers and command posts. The vehicle
has a remote-controlled turret at the rear. The turret is armed
with a 30 mm, seven-barrel cannon. The cannon can fire 4,000 rounds
a minute. The ammunition is either armor-piercing or high-explosive.
The cannon has a range of 3,000 meters.
Among the company’s latest products is an armored personnel
carrier, called Type 89, equipped with advanced sensors for day
and night operations. The main armament is a 25 mm cannon fitted
on the roof of the one-man turret. It can be used for ground and
anti-aircraft defense. One 7.62 mm machine gun and four smoke grenade
dischargers serve as secondary armaments.
Meanwhile, China boasts third place in the world in shipbuilding,
after Korea and Japan. Most of the ships employed by the Chinese
navy have been built by China Shipbuilding and Trading Company.
CSTC, according to company information, makes submarines, surface
warships and auxiliary vessels. The ships supplied by CSTC can be
built based on Chinese designs, or can be constructed with foreign
technologies and equipment.
The company has expertise in building missile corvettes and patrol
boats, as well as fast missile boats. The shipyard currently is
working on an offshore patrol vessel.
CSTC ships and weapon systems have been purchased by Algeria, Pakistan,
Thailand, Tunisia, Mauritania and Egypt, said a company official.
“They do not have the same capabilities,” he said. “We
work on the specification of our clients.”