China surges to become the world’s third-largest arms exporter

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With clients like Iran, Syria, and Myanmar, China’s arms exports are booming.

Over the last 10 years, China has more than tripled its arms exports, rising from the world’s seventh-largest arms exporter in 2002 to third place in 2012, according to data released today from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors such transfers around the world.

Because the data collected by SIPRI show volatility from year to year, the organization prefers to analyze it based on five-year averages, which would put China in fifth place instead of third. But China’s climb has been steady since 2007, when it was ranked 11th in the world.


China’s growth in exporting military weaponry has been almost unmatched. Only the Ukraine and Spain have grown faster over the last decade.


Though China’s arms sales have grown enormously, its rise in the rankings has also been due to fewer military exports from Germany and France.


Rising any higher in the rankings may take a lot more for China. The gap between it and the next largest exporters—the United States and Russia—is over three times larger than China’s current level of arms exports.