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China’s sale of flawed military equipment to allies, pose serious challenges

TBP Online
12 Jan 2024 16:03:20 | Update: 12 Jan 2024 16:07:11
China’s sale of flawed military equipment to allies, pose serious challenges
— Collected Photo

Many Asian and Southeast Asian countries which see China as key defence exporter of arms need to be careful.

Several countries which prefer to procure inexpensive weapons and systems from the Chinese market, should not blindly buy military equipments from China.

That’s because, the allure of China’s military equipment often conceals significant pitfalls and challenges for these ally nations, reports Greek City Times.

Pakistan which is in the process of laying the groundwork for procuring the Chinese fifth-generation FC-31 Gyrfalcon stealth fighter aircraft, needs to look at the past track record of China.

Earlier reports indicated that Pakistan, a significant importer of Chinese military equipment, expressed dissatisfaction with various Chinese-produced assets.

Complaints ranged from technical issues in F-22P frigates to the malfunctioning onboard imaging device of the FM90 (N) missile system.

Such shortcomings compromised the missile system’s ability to lock onto targets, rendering crucial components unusable.

The latest reports indicated that FC-31 Gyrfalcon, also referred to as J-31 or J-35, has not yet been given an official designation by Beijing, raising suspicion over the intention of China.

China’s reluctance to market its more advanced J-20 “Mighty Dragon” warplane abroad raises questions about its intentions.

Besides, Pakistan, Nigeria too has criticised China’s defense industry for selling malfunctioning and defective military equipment in recent years.

Nigeria reported technical issues with Chinese-made F-7 aircraft, leading to crashes and accidents, necessitating substantial maintenance and repairs.

Similarly, Myanmar discovered inaccuracies in the Chinese-made radar of its JF-17 aircraft, while Bangladesh encountered problems with firing ammunition loaded into its Chinese-built K-8W aircraft soon afterdelivery.

The strategy employed by China involves luring customers with affordable pricing and financing options. However, the hidden costs become apparent when this gear malfunctions.

Lack of technological compatibility and accountability from Chinese suppliers results in significant challenges for recipient countries. The shortage of personnel expertise and difficulty in acquiring replacement parts further complicate these issues.

This forces some countries to seek assistance from third parties, causing delays in their military modernization efforts.

Recent data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute indicates a decline in China’s arms exports. This could potentially be attributed to concerns surrounding the reliability and performance of Chinese military equipment.

The reliability issues persist even for Pakistan, which faces severe mechanical problems with several multi-role frigates developed by Chinese shipbuilding firms. Despite being designed for naval missions
with long-range missile capabilities, these frigates struggle due to onboard missile systems’ inability to lock onto targets effectively.

China’s budget-friendly military gear, while initially appealing to developing countries seeking hardware upgrades, poses substantial longterm risks. While affordability remains a key factor, recipient nations must weigh these against the potential unreliability, deficient maintenance contracts, and training inadequacies associated with Chinese suppliers.

Continual dependence on such equipment might not be a viable strategy if reliability concerns persist.

A RAND report on China’s military exports showed that its customers were primarily developing countries. Its largest customers were in South Asia and Africa, though it has also made a push into South America.

China has also benefited as countries in the Middle East and North Africa have sought to reduce their dependency on Western military suppliers.

Soft power and image-building are China’s major motivators in these regions, setting the foundation for ties in the same way that its Belt and Road infrastructure projects do.

The report clearly stated that China was not particularly discerning in who it will or won’t sell to. Its arms deals had few political contingencies involved, the report stated. In Africa, sales was driven by profit and trying to grab market share from Russia.

If a country would worry about its human rights records, financial credibility, or regime stability might harm its eligibility to purchase military equipment from Western suppliers.

Hence, China was always an option. In addition, China was a major player in the “value arms” market such as light training and fighter aircraft, armoured personnel carriers, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Such equipment met the affordability and the minimum functionality criteria that developing countries look for to use in counterterrorism operations and fighting rebel groups.

Surprisingly, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute data released in March 2023 stated that a 23 per cent decrease in China’s arms exports between the four-year periods of 2013–17 and 2018–22.

However, experts said that affordability will remain an issue for developing countries looking to bolster their hardware and supplies. They also may have few alternatives.

But if recipient countries continue to view Chinese military equipment as unreliable long term, or find training and maintenance contracts lacking, they may not want to become completely dependent on Chinese suppliers. The ball is in China’s allies court now.