Explaining and Influencing Chinese Arms Transfers

By Eikenberry, Karl W. | McNair Papers, February 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Explaining and Influencing Chinese Arms Transfers


Eikenberry, Karl W., McNair Papers


Introduction

In July 1987, the United States began Persian Gulf escort operations for reflagged Kuwaiti tankers to guarantee safe passage through vital international shipping lanes threatened by the escalating Iran-Iraq War. The task was complicated for the American Navy by Iran's deployment of shore batteries of Chinese-manufactured HY-2 Silkworm antiship missiles (AShMs). Washington negotiated with Beijing, seeking to deny further antiship missile deliveries to Teheran. Although an understanding was reached in March of the next year, the "Silkworm controversy" marked a watershed in Sino-American relations.' Henceforth, disagreements over arms transfer issues were to prove a recurring source of bilateral friction. In 1992, a U.S. Congressional research analyst noted:

   China's role in missile and nuclear weapons proliferation has
   become one of three issues--along with human rights and
   trade--upon which Congress has focused its reassessment of
   U.S. policy toward China, especially whether to attach
   conditions to the renewal of China's Most-Favored Nation
   (MFN) trade benefits .... China has a track record as a
   clandestine, renegade arms supplier that transferred CSS-2
   intermediate range ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia, Silkworm
   antiship missiles to Iran and Iraq, and missile technology to
   Pakistan. (2)

PRC leaders, of course, disagree with this assessment. Their basic position was stated by then Chinese President Yang Shangkun:

   American opinion censures us for selling weapons. Yet the
   U.S. also sells weapons. Why does it not censure itself? ....
   So there is a question of fairness here.... China has a
   saying, "Only magistrates are allowed to set fires. Ordinary
   people are not allowed to light lamps." You [the U.S.] are
   strong, so you can sell without constraint. We are not strong,
   and so we sell very much less. Yet you denounce us every
   day. We feel uncomfortable. (3)

The global significance of China's arms sales was implicitly recognized when the PRC, as one of the five major suppliers of conventional weapons in the world (the others being the United States, Russia, France, and the U.K.), was invited to participate in discussions deriving from President Bush's Middle East arms control initiative announced in May 1991. (4) The following year, the difficulties in finding common ground between the United States and China on weapons transfers policies became even more apparent when Beijing, responding to Washington's decision to sell the F-16 jet fighter to Taiwan, declared it would not attend the next round of the "Big Five's" Middle East arms control talks. (5) Given the PRC's great power aspirations and growing military strength, its arms sales activities are likely to remain an area of Sino-American contention and to be increasingly scrutinized in world disarmament forums.

Anticipating the subject's continuing relevance to international security affairs, this paper addresses the factors motivating Chinese conventional arms sales and speculates on means to influence them. * We start by describing the history of PRC weapons exports, then examine various supply- and demand-side reasons for these transfers. In developing both explanations, we will identify recurring patterns in the global arms trade to put our study of China's into perspective. Such an approach should help distinguish between those phenomena whose origins are best attributed to the nature of the international political system, and those more properly ascribed to the specifics of the Chinese case. Such distinctions become crucial in assessing options for modifying Beijing's behavior, the topic with which we will conclude this analysis.

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF CHINESE ARMS TRANSFERS

With the establishment of the PRC on 1 October 1949, the Chinese Communist Party assumed leadership of a country whose economy had been seriously weakened by inflation and the disruption of war.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Explaining and Influencing Chinese Arms Transfers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?