China looking to boost arm sales to African nations

Following in foot steps of developed western nations, China which has increased trade imports and exports to Africa, is seeking to increase its military sales on the continent.  A few months ago, a high Chinese military delegation began a three nation tour on possible arm sales.

A team of senior Chinese generals and defence department officials began a three-nation Africa trip on 23 May to promote Chinese hardware and “exchange views on issues of mutual interest”, the Chinese Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

Led by Chen Bingde, Chief of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the team travelled to Namibia before continuing on to Angola and Tanzania. Each of the three countries is an existing customer of China; Angola is one of Beijing’s major allies on the continent due to longstanding ties in resource extraction and development.

Chen Bingde met Namibian Defence Minister Charles Namoloh and held talks with Peter Nambundunga, acting commander of the Namibian Defence Force, on 25 May. Their meetings included “in-depth discussion on further strengthening the exchanges and co-operation between the two militaries and reached consensus in many regards”, according to a statement from the Chinese MoD.

China has historically sold arms to African countries irrespective of arms embargoes or moratoriums placed on arms deals, with Sudan and Zimbabwe two notable examples.During the peak of the crisis in Sudan’s western Darfur region, China sold the Khartoum government some USD55 million in weapons, according to a study commissioned by the conservative US think-tank The Heritage Foundation. In that same time period, Chinese arms sales to Africa represented 15.4 per cent (USD500 million) of all conventional arms transfers to the continent.

However, China has moved to broaden its client base in Africa, delivering Z-9WA attack helicopters to Kenya in January as well as other wheeled vehicles over the course of 2008.Among the most popular Chinese military exports to Africa are the J-7 multirole fighter, K-8 jet trainer and Y-12 twin-turboprop light transport, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to operate. China sees those countries already operating with the K-8 and J-7 aircraft as potential customers for its new FC-1 fighters.

The Angolan Air Force has expressed a requirement for entry-level trainer aircraft and it was expected that the visit by the Chinese delegation would include discussions on a deal to possibly include the K-8. The service has also expressed an intention to acquire new-generation advanced fighters. China has supplied Angola with an array of artillery since a military co-operation agreement was signed in 2007.

Beijing has also been a key partner in training and equipping the Tanzanian Air Force since a similar deal was signed in 2007, with the service also expressing interest in the K-8.Meanwhile, Nigeria has been negotiating with China to purchase K-8s, following a successful import of J-7s in 2006.

November 3 issue of the British “Jane’s Defense Weekly” article published in Lauren Gelfand.The article said that China is cultivating relations with African countries, are attracting a very long time in Rwanda and the United Zambia them as a possible military sales market;The article said that China will finance the establishment of a Rwandan Defence Forces Marine Corps mission to build a floating dock for Rwanda; Zambia has long-range artillery on the procurement of armored vehicles and demand, China may be to sell, Zambia, or is considering purchasing F -10 fighter than a dozen African countries.

The article said that in the 23 October and Rwanda signed a major initiative, the Chinese continue to seek African countries as its possible military equipment customers.  The Zambia Initiative officials in mid-October followed by a high-profile visit to China from.  The rise of these two countries are still mineral market, China is still tin, tantalum, copper and other mineral and other fields to explore a “profitable” interests.  The article said that, recently, led by Secretary of Defense James Kabarebe the Rwandan delegation to China on a five-day visit to the end, the two sides reached a broad agreement on military cooperation, and during early August, with the Cabaret Ambassador of China held talks in Rwanda, who reached the agreement laid the foundation.

The agreement includes funding the Chinese government to establish a Marine Corps Rwanda Defence Forces group, at the same time, China has promised to build a floating dock for Rwanda for the Marine Corps use only.  As a landlocked country, Rwanda, and there is no urgent need for naval capabilities, but it’s really the responsibility of the Marine Corps mission and Muhazi Lake Kivu Lake to maintain security.  China has contributed to the Rwanda Mission a number of Marine Corps equipment, including a search and rescue mission of the patrol and deter smuggling boats.  The article said that when the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame since he took office in 2003, Rwanda and China to expand military relations.  According to the Chinese Government in January 2009 defense white paper released data, China sold to Rwanda in 2007, large caliber artillery; there are more than 20 officers were sent to Rwanda for training in China, China has given about 700,000 U.S. dollars worth of Rwandan troops equipment.  The article said that the analysis of Africa, told Jane’s that the co-operation in Rwanda and the motivating factor in China there are political reasons.

The article said that, in addition to Rwanda, the Zambian Defense Minister Kalombo Mwansa recently to visit China, to be welcomed, both long-term sustained commitment to strengthen military relations, Lusaka (Zambian capital) side also renewed their commitment to support the one China policy.  The article said that in Zambia there are better armored vehicles on the performance of long-term needs and long-range artillery, the year to replace aging equipment in China and the Soviet Union.Since 2002, China has been providing equipment to Zambia, but the type and quantity is still unknown.  Zambia is considering purchasing a dozen J-10 fighter Chinese African countries.

Development of a military export capability potentially gives China extra leverage in the contest for orders in Africa.  As China increasingly develops its indigenous defence-industrial capabilities and looks to exert its political and economic muscle on a global level, it appears inevitable that its military exports will rise and China will find itself in increasing competition with other export powers.  A survey of potential future markets shows that a congruence of technical abilities, budgetary availability and China’s broader geopolitical objectives makes Africa stand out as a future destination for export competition.

Unsurprisingly for such a vast continent, the factors that lead countries to look to African countries as export markets are complex.  Oil and resources Western countries such as France view oil-rich states such as its former colony of Morocco or Libya (where it has historically enjoyed warm relations) as natural targets for exports of advanced military equipment (France’s role in Africa can be read here).  However, there is also high demand for lower-tech, cheaper equipment.  Russia has traditionally supplied many of the regimes in Africa and would look to maintain those relationships and re-assert its position as a dominant regional player and counter a perceived US hegemony (Russia’s new found interest in Africa can be read here and here).

China already has a well-documented interest in Africa’s resource wealth and has been vigorous in its cultivation of economic ties, considering access to energy and commodities to be an essential element of its continuing economic development.  Developing a military export capability potentially provides China with an additional source of leverage when negotiating these critical access arrangements.

The issue of arms embargoes should also be considered: a series of EU and UN embargoes put a number of African states beyond the reach of Western defence organizations.  Active EU embargoes (as of June 2008) are held against Côte d’Ivoire; Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Liberia; Somalia; Sudan; and Zimbabwe.  Mandatory UN embargoes are operated against Côte d’Ivoire; DRC rebels; Liberia; Rwanda rebels; Sierra Leone rebels; Somalia; and Sudan (Darfur region). Furthermore, one attraction of Africa may be that no one supplier state can claim to dominate arms supply across the whole continent: as a result, it can be viewed as a source of myriad opportunities.

It is certainly the case that among the top African spenders Libya and Algeria appear committed to Russian-sourced equipment, although France has been keen to compete in both these countries, whereas Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia favor US or European equipment.  Other countries not blessed with large budgets or US Foreign Military Financing assistance appear to be more eclectic in their approach, sourcing arms from a global set of suppliers.  China has until now been a relatively small player in Africa as it has been less able to supply the big players with the advanced military equipment that is available from the USA, Europe or Russia.  Instead, China has concentrated on those smaller countries that can assist in its search for secure access to energy and commodities, such as Sudan and Tanzania while investing substantially in non-military infrastructure projects.

However, as Chinese export capabilities improve, and its need to ensure access to energy to maintain its domestic economic growth becomes more acute, this will change.  Recent export deals show how Chinese exports are concentrated in Asia and Africa. According to the UN, in 2006 China exported defence equipment to Bangladesh, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Jordan, Namibia, Niger, Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand and Zimbabwe.

China supplies aircraft to Egypt and Kenya, and Jane’s Defence Forecasts indicates there are potential opportunities in Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya and Morocco. These are in both training/light strike aircraft, such as the K-8 (also being marketed to Venezuela among others) and the JF-17 multirole combat aircraft.  JF-17The JF-17 in particular will place China firmly in the role of a competitor to both Russia and the US as the aircraft is being positioned as an alternative to Russian Sukhoi aircraft and (presumably secondhand) F-16s.  Yang Ying, vice-president of China Aero-Technology Industry Corporation (CATIC) – China’s largest aviation industry trading company – said on 19 February 2008 at the Singapore Airshow: “We don’t only want to sell this aircraft to Pakistan. When we first thought of the JF-17, we wanted to export this aircraft globally, particularly to African and Asian countries. “We know that many of our customers might also look at the F-16 or the Sukhoi, but we also know that we have a specific advantage with the JF-17; it is much cheaper than other aircraft.  We think it is about one third of the cost of an F-16.”

The combination of low costs and few overt political strings may prove an increasingly attractive combination to African countries, particularly if the technological and qualitative improvements in its military equipment continue and the benefits of a close relationship with an emerging great power become increasingly apparent.

Here are some video about the J-10 Fighter plane.

For indepth look at growing arms sales and build up see previous post here.

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