The deep-sea drones, ballistic missiles, tanks, and fighter jets flaunted in military parades and at events like the Communist Party’s centenary celebrations increasingly demonstrate China’s growing military power. China has long been engaged in an arms race with other global leaders to import and produce the most advanced military technology. But where does it acquire its foreign weapons, and where do its own armaments go? Who is China’s main supplier of weapons? While China has gradually shifted to manufacturing its own military hardware, much of the country’s imported weaponry still comes from Russia, a collaboration that has persisted since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s. China sends soldiers to Russia for snowy mountain challenge That was when China launched a campaign to modernise the then-falling behind People’s Liberation Army, a move that followed US demonstrations of military power during the Gulf War and the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis . Although China initially looked to the West as a source of modern technology, this changed after the US and Europe placed an arms embargo on China in response to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown . Russia was an effective alternative – after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ruined the country’s defence industries, business with China provided Russia with the economic means to recuperate. China began importing the Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft from Russia in 1992. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated in a report released in December that from 2016 to 2020, 77 per cent of China’s total arms imports were from Russia. During the same period, China received 18 per cent of Russia’s total arms exports, making the country the second-largest recipient of major arms from Russia behind India. The leading arms research centre also noted that Russia’s major arms exports to China increased by 49 per cent during this time, compared to the previous five-year period. China and Russia have frequently cooperated on military and other strategic issues. But while Beijing and Moscow have pledged to improve military cooperation , including through “an increase in the number and scale of joint combat training missions”, they said in a joint statement in June that the partnership was not “a political and military alliance in the Cold War era”. Where else does China import weapons from? Several other countries spanning the European continent contribute to China’s inventory of military equipment. After Russia, the next largest sources of weapons for China from 2016 to 2020 were France (9.7 per cent) and Ukraine (6.3 per cent). From 2016 to 2020, China was the largest recipient of Ukrainian weapons, receiving 36 per cent of Ukraine’s total exports. According to SIPRI, Ukraine exports US$80-90 million worth of weapons to China annually. China is also the second-largest recipient of Switzerland’s exports, receiving 13 per cent of Switzerland’s total exports during this period, and also imports military arms from Germany as well as Britain. According to SIPRI, China was the world’s sixth largest importer of major arms in 2020. What kinds of weapons does China import? Most of China’s imports from Russia throughout the history of their partnership have been air defence systems and combat aircraft. China, Russia extend friendship treaty after Biden-Putin summit According to the US Department of Defence’s annual China Military Power Report, China bought 24 Su-35s from Russia in 2016 and has already received all of them. Since the mid-1990s, China has bought 12 Russian-built kilo-class attack submarines. China also imports naval guns such as the AK-176 that can be used at sea or against low-flying aerial targets, and the Mi-8MT/Mi-17, a transport helicopter that can also serve as an armed gunship, from Russia. The bulk of Russian imports in recent years, however, have been the AL-31 and D-30 turbofan engines developed for combat aircraft produced in China. France has delivered hundreds of military helicopters, such as the AS565S Panther, to China from the late 1980s until now. China also acquired thousands of diesel engines from Germany, as well as other gas turbines and turbofans from Ukraine and Britain. According to the US State Department, Russia has enhanced the weapons that it sells to China, including the S-400 air-defence system, Sovremenny-class destroyers, and advanced cruise missiles. Is China also a major arms exporter? China has decreased its dependence on foreign weapons and expanded its military production capabilities in recent years, becoming the world’s second largest arms exporter behind the US in 2017, according to research by SIPRI. From 2015 to 2019, China was the world’s second largest arms producer, SIPRI said. While it used to rely heavily on Russian imports, China’s advancements in weapon development have now placed it on par, or even ahead, of Russia. The US Defence Intelligence Agency told Congress that China’s rate of technological advancement is accelerating, whereas Russia’s is falling behind. Much of this is due to China’s larger budget. According to SIPRI, China’s military spending has increased for the past 26 years, the longest uninterrupted, consecutive increase in the research centre’s database. The country’s military expenditure reached an estimated US$252 billion in 2020, a 1.9 per cent increase from the previous year. Russia’s military expenditure, meanwhile, was US$61.7 billion in 2020. Who does China export weapons to? China has followed a pattern of arming its neighbours, serving as the primary arms supplier for several Asian countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Pakistan has been the primary recipient of China’s arms exports since 1991. China has also developed closer relations with many African countries, which bought 19.1 per cent of China’s total exports between 2010 and 2020. China’s arms sales drop as other nations side with US, experts say According to SIPRI, from 2016 to 2020, 38 per cent of China’s total arms exports went to Pakistan, 17 per cent to Bangladesh and 8.2 per cent to Algeria. The number of countries China exports to has also increased, from 40 countries during the five year period from 2010 to 2014 to 53 countries from 2015 to 2019. Since 2011, China has been a leading exporter of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Before that, only the US, Britain and Israel had armed UAVs. According to a report by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Texas A&M University, out of the 18 countries that bought armed drones from 2011 to 2019, 11 received their drones from China, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Uzbekistan. During the same period, the US only supplied drones to France. From 2022 to 2028, China is expected to deliver eight conventional submarines to Pakistan. The two countries also jointly produce JF-17 fighter jets, anti-tank missiles, portable surface-to-air missiles, missile boats, and tanks, among other military weapons. What are the major Chinese arms-producing companies? In 2019, four of the world’s top 25 arms manufacturers were Chinese, accounting for 16 per cent of overall arms sales, according to SIPRI, which noted that other Chinese arms manufacturers could potentially rank among the top 25 but that the data for these other companies was insufficient. China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) is the primary supplier of military equipment for the PLA, providing tanks, long-range suppression weapons, and air defence among other battle equipment. The group also supplies weapons and technical support to the navy, air force, rocket force, strategic support force, and police. The field of aviation is dominated by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic), which produces fighters, trainers, military helicopters, and other airborne weapons as well as civil aircraft. China second to US in arms market with three firms in top 10 manufacturers China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) is China’s most powerful central corporation for defence electronics, security electronics, and informatisation, covering fields including electronic warfare, communication and navigation, and intelligent transport. China South Industries Group Corporation (CSGC) produces light vehicles, vehicle components, and firearms. In 2019, SIPRI ranked Norinco, Avic, CETC and CSGC seventh, eighth, 10th, and 14th among the top 25 arms-producing companies in the world, respectively. Other major arms-producing companies noted by the research centre included China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, China General Nuclear Power Group, China National Nuclear Corporation, and China State Shipbuilding Corporation.