Can China beat Russia and France to become the world’s second largest exporter of fighter jets behind the United States?
China flying its fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter jets in the largest formation ever held during the CCP’s centenary celebrations aimed to assert Beijing’s growing air power.
The air show was also aimed at attracting the attention of potential foreign customers to the Chinese jets.
China, the world’s second-largest military spender, is slowly moving forward in the race to become a global exporter, according to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
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China was the world’s fifth-largest arms exporter over the past decade (2010 to 2020) – behind the United States, Russia, France and Germany, dropping from ninth in the assessment 2005-2009.
China as an arms exporter
According to SIPRI Evaluation, a significant share of exports was consumed by Asia (77.3%) followed by Africa (19.1%) and the remaining 3.6% went to other parts of the world, including ‘Latin America.
The main Chinese arms customers in Asia are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. In Africa, countries such as Algeria, Tanzania and Nigeria remain the leading importers of Chinese arms.
The export market grew from 40 to 53 countries in the second half of the decade, and four of the country’s defense companies are in the top 25 in the world.
China has benefited greatly from the gap-filling trick, as many of its arms markets have been sanctioned by the West.
Countries like Venezuela, on which the US has imposed an arms embargo for failing to cooperate with US-led counterterrorism efforts, Pakistan which faces similar international sanctions, and Iran , a great rival to the U.S.-led allies who faced a arms embargo in the past 13 years during its nuclear program have turned to Chinese military equipment.
China also signed a 400 billion dollars Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Iran that will define and guide cooperation between the two for the next 25 years.
The use of Chinese weapons and other equipment by the state and non-state actors in conflict-ridden countries, especially in the Middle East region, has been repeatedly criticized by international experts.
Export of Chinese jets
the most powerful in China D-20 “Mighty dragon” the fighter jet would face an export ban over fears that “fifth generation technology could fall into hostile hands.”
It is similar to the export restrictions placed on the US F-22 Raptor, one of two fifth-generation stealth jets that the US operates, the other being the F-35.
National interest city Song Zhongping, a former Beijing officer, on the possibility that China would only consider lifting the ban if the United States does. “If America’s allies had F-22s, China’s allies would need J-20s to balance them,” Zhongping said.
Shenyang Aircraft Corp (SAC), a self-funded private company considered the “birthplace” of Chinese fighter jets, has successfully developed fighter jets since Mao’s era.
During the Cold War era, the J-5, J-6 and J-7, the Chinese variant of the Soviet MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters, put Chinese fighters on the world map . Buyers included Pakistan, Vietnam, Albania, Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria and even the United States who allegedly bought J-5 (NATO name Fresco) for use. as mobile threats in tests.
It is believed that North Korea still works F-5 (the export version of the J-5) and F-6 (a domestic variant of the J-6). Later versions of the Shenyang aircraft – J-8, J-11 (developed from the Russian Sukhoi Su-27) and J-16 – are exclusively used by the Chinese PLA Air Force. It remains unclear whether these models were produced for export or not.
The development of a J-13 air superiority fighter jet was even canceled.
On the other hand, jets developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) such as Chengdu J-7 and JF-17 Thunder have been exported to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Nigeria.
China would be marketing its fourth-generation Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter jet, which rivals the American F-16, but there is no taker yet. Iran could be on the table but China seems reluctant to strike a deal, as reported by The Eurasian Times.
Forbes published an article comparing the growth of the Chinese jet industry with that of Russia and predicts the possibility that China potentially exports more fighter jets as more markets move to China for aircraft equipment.
In addition to China’s manufacturing capacity, the use of composite materials to keep the jet light, the integration of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars in modern designs, and a more mature stealth system make China outperform Russian aircraft designs, the article notes.
China has replaced Russia in the number of in-service fighter jets, according to the World Air Force’s 2021 directory.
The FC-31, an advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter jet developed by SAC, is said to be a response to the US F-35, eyeing global markets.
Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter prototype reportedly launched public display on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Shenyang Aircraft Corp (SAC), marking a milestone in the development of the aircraft.
Despite an ambitious native fighter jet program, Chinese planes have limited buyers. Richard Aboulafia, aeronautics and aerospace expert, nodded in Foreign Policy that China is struggling to win over buyers of its advanced military fighter jets.
Citing data from SIPRI, the article says that over the past decade, China exported $ 7.2 billion worth of military aircraft, most of which consist of individual components and not the aircraft itself. . It places the country behind the United States ($ 99.6 billion), Russia ($ 61.5 billion) and France ($ 14.7 billion).
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Targeting China’s foreign policy, Aboulafia noted that China’s lack of trade power and strategic alliances have pushed back potential clients like Malaysia and the Philippines while the dominant military markets Singapore, South Korea and the Australia remains aligned with the United States.
However, as the CCP enters a new era, committing to expand “China’s military and influence,” the question remains whether the country can become a mass exporter of fighter jets.
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