In the last five years, the Chinese military industry has become the world’s second biggest arms manufacturer after the US, according to recent data.

While science and rational thinking have become dominant themes across the modern world, warlike human nature and global security concerns across all faiths and backgrounds are progressing at a faster pace, new data suggests. 

According to a Swedish peace institute, the world’s arms manufacturing sector last year saw an 8.5 percent increase, reaching $361 billion in sales compared to 2018. The institute’s analysis is based on data gathered from the world's top 25 arms sales companies. 

Some of the information, that has been prepared by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), says that China, which remained isolated for several centuries until gradually opening up to the world in the 1950s onwards, has become the second biggest exporter of arms in the world. It now exceeds some powerful European nations and Russia, with a share of 16 percent among top 25 companies. 

The US, the world’s biggest democracy, is still by far the top arms manufacturer across the globe, “accounting for 61 per cent of the combined arms sales of the top 25”, the report stated  

China has surpassed some major European countries like the UK, France and Russia, the successor state to the former communist Soviet Union, which was in tight competition with the US in the arms races during the Cold War. 

Among the top 25 arms companies that were reviewed, China is represented by four companies, garnering sales of $56.7 billion in 2019, while Russia has two firms with a net of $13.9 billion in the same year. 

The US beats all others with combined sales of $221.2 billion last year. 

The rise of Chinese arms

Experts think that China’s share of the global arms sector could be much higher than various research groups like the SIPRI estimate, because the authoritarian regime of the communist party-led country makes exact figures of sales in missile manufacturing and shipbuilding inaccessible. 

A visitor stands underneath a Chinese-made missile displayed at Beijing's Military Museum October 21, 2002.
A visitor stands underneath a Chinese-made missile displayed at Beijing's Military Museum October 21, 2002. (Wilson Chu WC/CP / Reuters Archive)

“Those with access to additional data likely see even greater [People’s Republic of China] arms-sales activity,” said Andrew Erickson, a professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College. 

“After all, China already enjoys the world’s second-largest defence spending by any measure and is pursuing rapid military development and expansion of influence,” the professor added. 

Three Chinese arms companies were able to reserve themselves a place on the list of the world’s top ten weapons manufacturers, showing how adept the communist party-led country’s political and financial system has been to fiercely compete with powerful capitalist countries across global markets. 

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) was ranked 6th as the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) was ranked 8th. The China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO) was in 9th place. 

“The combined revenue of the four Chinese companies in the top 25—which also include China South Industries Group Corporation (CSGC; ranked 24th)—grew by 4.8 per cent between 2018 and 2019,” the SIPRI report noted. 

China is able to export its military technology to a diverse geography, ranging from its immediate Asian neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, to Africa and the Americas.

China is able to export its military technology to a diverse geography ranging from its immediate Asian neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, to Africa and the Americas.
China is able to export its military technology to a diverse geography ranging from its immediate Asian neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, to Africa and the Americas. (Fatih Uzun / TRTWorld)

The large Asian continent accounts for 75 percent of China’s total military exports as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar represent 61.3 percent of that sum according to data, which has covered a time period since 2008. 

In Africa, Chinese arms have also appeared to have a particular appeal, covering 20 percent of the country’s total exports. Northern Africa accounts for nearly half of the country’s sales to the continent as eastern Africa represents 21 percent of it. 

While Chinese arms companies are not doing so well across the Americas, Venezuela - with a government of socialist tendencies - is by far the biggest customer of the Asian powerhouse, accounting for 87 percent of all sales across the continent. 

Beijing is even able to find customers in Europe, which has been a rare event for a long time. 

In late 2019, Serbia showed its interests in Chinese-made UAVs, saying that it will buy 9 Wing Loong drones from Beijing.  

Russia, which has heavily invested in the development of its military technologies under the assertive leadership of President Vladimir Putin, showing its high-tech supersonic cruise missiles in places like Syria, is finding that its arms sales to the rest of the world are in decline, according to the report. 

“The revenues of the two Russian companies in the top 25 — Almaz-Antey and United Shipbuilding —both decreased between 2018 and 2019, by a combined total of $634 million. A third Russian company, United Aircraft, lost $1.3 billion in sales and dropped out of the top 25 in 2019,” the report outlined.