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

By R. Bates Gill | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Chinese Arms Transfers in the 1990s: Purposes, Patterns, and Prospects in the New World Order

For the PRC, the past several years have served as a time to consider the forces of constancy and change that shape the people and policies of China. The year 1989 marked the fortieth anniversary of the People's Republic of China, yet, in the wake of the events at Tiananmen Square, the year ushered in a renewed period of tragedy, uncertainty, and sober political reckoning for China's citizens and leaders alike. In the 1990s, the Chinese look to a future in which their country is fraught with succession struggles within an entrenched Communist oligarchy and confronted by ever-present popular dissatisfaction and calls for social, political, and economic reform. Abroad, new challenges and threats -- strategic, political, and economic -- will present themselves to disrupt China's assertions to Great Power status. Concerns over an emerging new world order -- What is it? How will it be effected? Who will it benefit? -- rend China in a debate nearly as old as the Middle Kingdom itself: isolation and autarky or openness and interdependence? In view of the daunting domestic and external challenges facing China, arms transfers seem a minor concern.

Yet, as we have seen, even in the most difficult periods of its short history, the PRC engaged in the arms trade. Indeed, at times of uncertainty and peril in its external realm, the PRC turned to arms exports as a way to strengthen its position against potential or real hostility. While during the 1980s the world's strategic and political situation changed in so many dramatic and positive ways, above all in the U.S.-Soviet relationship,

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