Chinese arms exports to Africa are on an upward trend, according to Chinese and African official, following the first Africa-China Security and Defense Forum that took place between June 26th and July 10th, 2018.
The establishment of the first ever overseas Chinese military base in Djibouti, as well as its participation in peacekeeping missions strengthened the defense ties it has with the continent, in addition to the strong economic relationship it has already built over the last almost two decades.
Between 2013 and 2017, Chinese arms exports to Africa went up 55%, from the previous 5-year-period between 2008 and 2012, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
This is significant, since Africa’s overall arms imports decreased by 22% over the same period. China’s share of total African arms imports almost double from 8.6% to 17%. And both Chinese and African officials vowed to increase that share.
Russian arms exports over the period went down by 32% and now account for 39% of the total imports to the continent. The US accounts for 11% of the African arms imports.
Separated into years, these are the arms China has sold to African countries between 2013 and 2017, according to UNROCA’s data:
In 2013, China reported the following sales to African countries:
- Battle Tanks – 30 to Chad, 24 to Tanzania;
- Armored Combat Vehicles – 11 to Cameroon, 28 to Ghana;
- Large caliber artillery systems – 12 to Cameroon, 12 to Tanzania;
- Armored combat vehicles – 12 to Mozambique, for participation in the International peacekeeping mission;
- Warships – 1 to Nigeria;
- 100 guided missile systems to South Sudan. (According to SCMP, not UNROCA)
- Armored Combat Vehicles – 106 to Kenya, 3 to Sierra Leone;
- Large caliber artillery systems – 2 to Chad, 50 to Nigeria;
- Armored combat vehicles – 12 to Mozambique, 7 to Sierra Leone;
- Large caliber artillery systems – 12 to Senegal;
- Combat aircraft – 6 Combat aircraft to Zambia (not UAV);
- Warships – 1 to Nigeria;
- Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems (MANPADS) – 100 MANPADS to Ghana;
- Armored combat vehicles – 3 to Mali, 20 to Nigeria, 12 to Somalia, 12 to Tanzania;
- Large caliber artillery systems – 15 to Senegal;
- Missiles and missile launchers – 8 to Namibia.
The main exported model of battle tank that China exports is the VT4, designed and produced specifically to be exported by China North Industries Group, officially abbreviated as Norinco. It is a third-generation combat vehicle with a 125-millimeter smoothbore cannon capable of firing guided missiles. A remote weapon station on the turret is armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun.
In 2017, Norinco expanded its line of tanks for export with the GL-5 armored vehicle. It includes four radar systems and fixed projectile launchers attached to a tank turret for 360-degree coverage.
The ST1 8×8 wheeled tank destroyer is another of China’s armoured vehicles for export.
In terms of aircraft, JF-17 Thunder is China’s major fighter jet designed to be exported. It can deploy air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, powered either by a Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan, with a top speed of Mach 1.6.
The number of drones China has exported is unclear, however it has claimed that it wishes to dominate the UAV market.
In terms of missile systems, еhe Red Arrow 9 anti-tank missile system and GP6 155mm laser-homing artillery weapon systems are Norinco’s major exports. The Red Arrow is an advanced, third-generation anti-tank missile system with a 5.5km strike range.
Reportedly, Chinese missile systems have been used in conflicts in Congo and Sudan.
China’s efforts to increase its influence in Africa appear to be unrelenting. In addition to that, some of its biggest buyers, according to UNROCA data are Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand.