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

By R. Bates Gill | Go to book overview

twice as far as the original Chinese Silkworm, and there is the possibility that Egypt will eventually upgrade the missile to have a range of 170 miles. Also, China is expected to continue assisting Egypt in the production of rocket launchers and munitions, antitank missiles, and manportable antiaircraft missiles. 128 China's interest in Egypt, and the Middle East as a whole, was underscored by the visits of PRC President Yang Shangkun ( December 1989) and Premier Li Peng ( July 1991), both part of larger Middle East tours seeking to improve Chinese influence in the region.

In a very broad outlook, China's arms transfers to Egypt may be part of a longer-term strategy on the part of the PRC: to make its presence felt in regional affairs, independent of the superpowers, and as a growing power in its own right. Arms exports to Egypt were Beijing's first attempt at supplying the wide open arms markets of the Middle East, in the past the domain of the superpowers. Success in Egypt not only emboldened the Chinese to seek other opportunities for arms exports to the region, but also gained for Beijing an entree and base from which to explore such opportunities. In the years following its first arms exports to Egypt, China expanded its exports to several other countries in the region, including Algeria, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and possibly Libya. Slowly, China made its presence felt in the Middle East, a presence which was in part initiated and sustained through arms exports to the region. 129


NOTES
1
See Eden Y. Woon, "Chinese Arms Sales and U.S.-China Military Relations", Asian Survey ( June 1989), 604.
2
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, World Armament and Disarmament: SIPRI Yearbook ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), Appendix 7B (hereinafter cited as SIPRI Yearbook followed by the year of the edition). The satellite report is registered in Defense & Foreign Affairs ( 19 June 1989), 8.
3
Christian Science Monitor ( 31 January 1991), 1; Washington Post ( 1 October 1990), 18. These reports claimed that China provided Baghdad with seven tons of lithium hydride in September 1990, a chemical used in the manufacture of missile fuel and nuclear arms. The Chinese foreign ministry denied the report, dismissing it as totally groundless.
4
Yitzhak Shichor, "Unfolded Arms: Beijing's Recent Military Sales Offensive", Pacific Review, no. 3 ( 1988), explains the various theories as to the final destination of Chinese arms sales revenue, but emphasizes the contention that the government keeps only between 5 and 15 percent of the sales in the form of taxes. The argument that the government keeps substantially more, between 85 and 95 percent, is put forward by Bai Si Yeng, "Understanding the Chinese Defence Industry", Military Technology, no. 3 ( 1988).
5
In 1986, when Chinese sales to Iran and Iraq were reaching a peak, the figures for Chinese GNP and for total exports were US$938 billion and US$309.4

-133-

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