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Chinese Defense Firms Seek to Flood Arms Market While U.S. is ‘Preoccupied’ with Ukraine: Report

Beijing sees an opportunity to flood the market with Chinese-made military equipment while the U.S. is “preoccupied” with the war in Ukraine, Financial Times reported.
STR/AFP via Getty Images
STR/AFP via Getty Images

By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation

Chinese defense companies hope to flood the market in developing countries with Chinese weapons, saying that the West has become “distracted” by the war in Ukraine, according to Financial Times.

As Beijing pushes a top-down initiative to “break the western monopoly” on defense technologies, Chinese weapons companies have started scoping out underserved weapons markets in developing countries, FT reported, citing industry representatives attending a recent trade show whose names the outlet withheld for security reasons. Western defense companies and governments are focused on meeting skyrocketing demand triggered by the Ukraine war, creating a window of opportunity to sell in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, a person close to a major Chinese tank builder told FT.

“We are able to pick up the slack [in weapons exports] left by Russia and Ukraine … in the meantime, the US and Europe are so preoccupied with the war they are not paying attention to the needs of certain developing country clients,” the person, speaking of China’s Inner Mongolia First Machinery Group, told the outlet.

China’s “military-civil fusion” policy involves leveraging not only local research, but stealing technology from foreign sources through business deals between ostensibly private Chinese firms and international companies, according to FT and the U.S. State Department.

The policy has evolved into a “national strategy” overseen by Chinese Premier Xi Jinping personally and expanded in recent years to include not only military technologies, but “all domains of competition,” experts told the outlet.

Advertisements for the trade show, which targeted private companies specializing in products with potential for military use, touted products that could “break the western monopoly” on the defense industry, according to FT.

Another participant described China’s military-civil fusion policy as a “boon” for local companies as Beijing seeks to re-shore critical supply chains, according to FT.

Technologies on display at the show included military vehicles, computer servers and intelligence gathering software, according to FT.

“Our technology is already better than western rivals,” one participant told the outlet.

Historically, the U.S. has been a premier source for high-quality, but expensive, weapons and military equipment, while Russia served as the world’s main supplier for lower-end articles, according to Vasabjit Banerjee and Benjamin Tkach, both professors of political science at Mississippi State University, writing for Foreign Affairs in October. But, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine depleting Moscow’s own capacity, China could step in to fill the void left by Russia in affordable, lower-tech weapons, edging out U.S. bid for influence among developing countries, they warned.

Data on weapons exports for 2023 was not immediately available, but U.S. weapons exports shot up in 2022, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Export values for Ukraine shot up in volume from 2o million in 2021 to 917 million in 2022, according to data viewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, leading to a dramatic flow of Western weapons meant to arm Kyiv and increased demand in Europe, according to SIPRI.

“Even as arms transfers have declined globally, those to Europe have risen sharply due to the tensions between Russia and most other European states,” said Pieter D. Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program, said in a statement. “Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European states want to import more arms, faster. Strategic competition also continues elsewhere: arms imports to East Asia have increased and those to the Middle East remain at a high level.”

U.S. military equipment sales to foreign governments rose 40% in 2022, the State Department said in January, including $13.9 billion in F-15ID fighter jets for Indonesia, $6.9 billion in Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships for Greece and $6 billion in M1A2 Abrams tanks for Poland, Reuters reported.

Countries can purchase U.S. made arms through direct arrangements with American weapons manufacturers or through a process called “foreign military sales” that involves the State Department and Department of Defense; both avenues require U.S. government approval, according to Reuters.

The State Department did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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