Russia Losing Valuable Arms Buyer as Chinese Defense Industry Ramps Up

Feb 16, 2009
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Russia Losing Valuable Arms Buyer as Chinese Defense Industry Ramps Up

The Hudson Institute's Richard Weitz, posting over at Second Line of Defense, says Russian arms sales to China are drying up as Chinese industry increasingly builds its own high-tech weaponry and Beijing objects to Russian technology transfer restrictions.

Since 2001, Russia has sold more than $16 billion worth of arms to China, with yearly sales peaking at $2.7 billion, he writes; accounting for nearly 40 % of all major Russian arms sales. In recent years, however, things have changed:

"Since 2005, the PRC has stopped purchasing Russian warships or warplanes and has ceased signing new multi-billion arms sale contracts"¦ The director of Russia's state-controlled arms export company, Rosoboronexport, recently forecast that the value of Russian arms sold to China could decline to as low a level as 10 percent of the value of all Russian military exports in coming years. Some defense experts believe that figure could fall even further."

China now competes with Russia in lucrative international arms markets by offering Russian knock-offs at bargain prices, or, without the onerous restrictions often imposed by Moscow. "Chinese manufacturers are producing either more completely indigenous advanced weapons systems or more defense technologies, sub-systems, and other essential components that Chinese manufactures can insert directly into foreign-made systems."

Chinese firms adroitness at reverse engineering foreign technology is well known. A case in point: the Chinese built J-11B fighter. Russia gave the Chinese the designs to the Sukhoi-27 fighter in 1995 after the Chinese agreed to purchase 200 kits to produce it under local license. In 2004, after building 100 planes, the Chinese cancelled the contract for the remaining fighters, claiming they no longer met Chinese requirements. Soon after, the knock off J-11B began appearing for sale on international markets.

– Greg Grant

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