Beijing: Chinese arms exports have faced a decline attributed to issues related to poor quality and inconsistent performance, raising concerns for buyer countries. Over the past decade, China’s arms exports have dropped by nearly a quarter, as reported by Directus.
Furthermore, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has grappled with problems related to low-quality weapons.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports a 7.8% decrease in China’s arms shipments between 2016 and 2020 compared to the previous five years. This decline has caused China’s global market share to shrink from 5.6% to 5.2%. Initially, there was a demand for Chinese weaponry due to its lower cost compared to competitors, but this demand began to wane as Chinese armaments failed to perform as promised.
According to Cindy Zheng, a researcher at the think tank RAND Corporation, “China attracts customers for its military equipment with cut-rate pricing and financing, but there are hidden costs — especially when gear malfunctions.” She also highlighted that a lack of technological compatibility with Chinese military equipment can prove to be particularly expensive.
China supplies weapons to more than 53 nations, with a focus on countries that are not traditional markets for major arms suppliers like the United States or France. Major importers of Chinese armaments include Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, as well as countries in Africa and the Middle East.
According to Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, the issue of problems with Chinese military gear has been emphasized. He noted that “China-made weapons are not just technologically inferior, they also remain untested on the battlefield.”
Examples of problems with Chinese-made weapons include Myanmar’s concerns about the low accuracy of radar on Chinese jets it purchased, leading to the grounding of most of the Chinese jets due to technical issues. Nigeria also faced maintenance problems with Chinese-made Chengdu F-7 fighters and was compelled to send seven of nine such fighters back to China. Pakistan, a close ally of China, encountered difficulties with Chinese-made navy warships, including issues with engine degradation, faulty sensors, and missile system targeting problems.
Collin Koh, a maritime security analyst, highlighted that many importer countries are concerned about the absence of combat testing for most Chinese hardware. Additionally, there are political tensions with China concerning the integration of non-Chinese systems, making certification standards a significant concern for these countries.
Andrei Serbin, a geopolitical intelligence expert and director of the Argentine think tank CRIES, pointed out that countries acquiring Chinese military equipment for the first time are discovering that certification standards are lower than those in the West. In Western countries and NATO members, there are shared standards of excellence for technology certification, which China does not match.