China’s military capabilities continue to grow and as a global economic powerhouse, most would expect it weapon export market to boom alongside as well. However, China’s defense exports have been lower than might be expected of a country with such advanced weapons. China has always stressed its indigenous military production, seeing as the two biggest International weapon exporters Russia and US have relatively poor relationships with it. In comparison, India has only now begun to prioritise its indigenous military production, mostly as part of the Make In India initiative and still has a lot of ground to cover.
While India is only able to sell small arms and artillery ammunition to African and Gulf countries, China developed the J-20 fifth-generation fighter aircraft (though they compare badly to their American counterparts) with hopes of cornering the warplane market. China also focused research on advanced missile launchers and has a whole different branch of its armed forces named the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force that is given the responsibility of China’s missile launchers and nuclear weapons. However, despite this weapons catalogue, China’s defense exports have far lower than might be expected given its defense spending.
The Foreign Policy published a report revealing the reasons, which concern mostly with China’s poor International reputation for aggression and authoritarianism. The naval standoff with the Philippines just last month is testament to that. The Foreign Policy report claimed that fancy weapons aren’t worth much when there are almost no friends to sell them to.
Between the questionable capabilities of China’s military assets such as the fifth generation J-20 fighters and its own negative diplomatic image, relatively few countries purchase weapons from China. One of the biggest importers of Chinese arms is Pakistan, who is hensold weapons at a discounted price to help China hold the frontier against their mutual rival India. The report also revealed how military analysts earlier believed that China was bound to compete with Russia and the US over the global weapons market upon observing its steadily improving military tech but this estimate falls short.