Chinese Arms Transfers: Purposes, Patterns, and Prospects in the New World Order

By R. Bates Gill | Go to book overview

Introduction
"A Rogue Elephant"

There are many countries which sell weapons to other countries. However, when China sells weapons, the press tends to pick on China and China becomes a newsmaker. . . . Why is it that some people always harass China with this so-called issue? -- (former) PRC Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian

In spite of such protestations and others like it, 1 the People's Republic of China ( PRC or China) gained a significant measure of notoriety as an arms merchant beginning in the mid-1980s, prompting some prominent observers of international affairs to characterize the PRC as a "rogue elephant in the arms trade." 2 It is true that over the course of the 1980s, the PRC launched an aggressive campaign to increase its share of the world's arms trade, beginning most prominently with its policy to export arms to both sides of the Iran-Iraq War. Since that time, the issue of Chinese arms exports resurfaces regularly, with seemingly increasing degrees of urgency and concern as China expands its weapons transfers to include a growing host of recipients: Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Myanmar, and Algeria, among others.Indeed, during the 1980s, the Chinese were quite active as arms traders. Over this period, the PRC
became the fourth largest exporter of arms to the Third World;
was the leading vendor of weapons and training to Teheran while simultaneously supplying Baghdad with arms for the duration of the Iran-Iraq War;

-3-

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