06 December 2020

Chinese Arms Industry Ranks Second Behind U.S., Report Says

Brett Forrest, “Chinese Arms Industry Ranks Second Behind U.S., Report Says,” Wall Street Journal, 6 December 2020.

The country’s global sales are larger than those of Russia and European nations

China has boasted the world’s second-largest arms-manufacturing industry for the past five years, ranking behind the U.S. in sales but outstripping Russia and the top European nations, according to a report released Sunday by a Swedish think tank.

In its annual study of arms sales, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) for the first time released figures for individual Chinese defense firms.

The study found that sales of arms and military services by the global sector’s 25 largest companies for which data are available totaled $361 billion last year, an 8.5% increase over 2018. …

Among those companies, four are Chinese and 12 are American. Those Chinese companies had combined sales of $56.7 billion in 2019, compared with $221.2 billion from the U.S. companies. Two of the top 25 firms are Russian, with combined sales of $13.9 billion.

SIPRI figures showed that revenues for Chinese defense manufacturers have failed to keep pace with the global growth, with the top four Chinese firms growing by 4.8% last year. However, SIPRI’s data on Chinese firms excludes inaccessible sales figures from major companies in missile manufacturing and shipbuilding.

“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 U.S. Naval War College. “After all, China already enjoys the world’s second- largest defense spending by any measure and is pursuing rapid military development and expansion of influence.” … …

While the Chinese state is the top client of the Chinese defense industry, Chinese defense exports rose 38% between 2008 and 2017… according to an earlier SIPRI report, despite its inability to offer a Western standard of sophistication and aftermarket servicing, Mr. Erickson said.

Internationally, China tends to compete on price, while taking advantage of market irregularities—providing aerial drones, for example, to countries to which Western countries have agreed not to sell, said Mr. Erickson. … … …

Here is the related SIPRI press release.

Click here to read full-text PDF of SIPRI report.