China Showcases Arms at Africa Defense Expo
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — China is elbowing out once-dominant Western defense companies at the upcoming 2010 Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD 2010) tri-service exhibition near Cape Town, South Africa.
Chinese defense companies have taken a sizeable portion of exhibition space at Ysterplaat Air Force Base with more than 1,200 square meters. More than a dozen major defense companies are exhibiting at the Sept. 21-25 show, including China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC) and China North Industries Corp. (NORINCO).
China’s aggressive posture at the defense show reflects its broader strategies in Africa, where it has become a much more active supplier of arms.
China is providing opportunities for African nations to procure arms and equipment with soft loans, and in some cases arms, in exchange for access to resources, such as oil and natural gas. There also is interest in strategic minerals, a market China has been securing around the world.
According to the 2009 and 2010 annual reports by the U.S. Department of Defense on Chinese military modernization, China received 17 percent of its total foreign oil supplies from Angola and 6 percent from Sudan. From 2005 to 2009, Africa made up 11 percent of overseas Chinese arms sales.
There have been complaints from governments and human rights organizations about Chinese arms sales to and support for the governments of Sudan and Zimbabwe, which have been accused of human rights violations. China appears reluctant to hear complaints and is oblivious to United Nations sanctions.
“If China really wished to effectively refute such allegations, it could bring a greater transparency to its arms sales and/or policies on soft loans,” said Sarah Raines, a researcher at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and the author of the book, “China’s African Challenges.”
China has reportedly provided $75 billion to companies that produce weapons in Africa, said Mike Hough, an expert at the Institute for Strategic and Political Affairs, University of Pretoria. Not only has China been exporting weapons to Africa, but South Africa, in particular, has exported arms and equipment to China, he said.
China also has worked hard to improve military relations with Africa, Hough said. In 2009, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania sent senior defense delegations to China on official visits.
China also has contributed significant numbers of troops to peacekeeping and humanitarian missions under the United Nations while providing arms to African nations in violation of U.N. resolutions.
In November 2007, Beijing deployed more than 300 engineers to support the African Union-U.N. Mission in Darfur, Sudan. China sells arms to Sudan despite U.N. Security Council resolutions 1556 in 2004 and 1591 in 2005, both of which called for preventing the transfer of arms to Darfur.
China argues that arms sales “constitute part of normal commercial relations, and that the arms supplied by Chinese companies were not meant for use in Darfur,” the 2009 DoD report said. From 2004 to 2006, China provided an average of 90 percent of small arms sales to Sudan.
In March 2008, South African dockworkers refused to unload a Chinese cargo ship carrying 70 tons of small arms and ammunition for eventual delivery to Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF Party, led by President Robert Mugabe. The ZANU-PF was accused of using violence against pro-democracy advocates during elections. The ship was rerouted to Angola, where it off-loaded non-military cargo and returned to China with the remaining arms.
Beijing initially defended the shipment, but relented after international pressure.
“The most obvious conclusion is that there is good money to be made in the arms business, and China has become one of the world’s most important suppliers of arms — globally, well behind the U.S. and Russia — to the developing world,” said David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.
From 2001 to 2008, China transferred to sub-Saharan Africa 390 artillery pieces, 440 armored personnel carriers and armored cars, 46 minor surface combatants, 20 supersonic combat aircraft and 70 military aircraft (mostly transport), said Shinn, now an African specialist with the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
It helps that Chinese arms tend to be relatively inexpensive and easy to operate, such as the J-7 and K-8 aircraft, Raines said. However, China’s unbridled enthusiasm for selling arms to nations like Sudan and Zimbabwe has damaged its reputation in the international community.
In March 2008, the International Criminal Court issued its first arrest warrant for a sitting president. The warrant charges Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Chinese companies that will have a presence at AAD 2010 include:
■ China Aviation Industrial Base (CAIB), also known as Xi’an Yanliang National Aviation Hi-Tech Industry Base.
■ China Electronics Import & Export Corp. (CEIEC)
■ China Electronics Technology Group Corp. (CETC)
■ China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC)
■ China North Industries Corp. (NORINCO)
■ China Overseas Space Development and Investment Co. (COSDIC), under the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. and the China Volant Industry Co.
■ China Poly Group Corp.
■ China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC)
■ China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Co. (CSOC)
■ China Shipbuilding Trading Co. (CSSC) ■ China Xinxing Import and Export Corp. (CXXC)
■ Million China Holdings, Ltd.
■ Ningbo Andarm Electrical Apparatus Works