According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, it now accounts for 25 percent of the market, not including South Africa. (SIPRI notes that a number of large Ukrainian and Russian arms sales to Sudan and Uganda are likely to force China out of the top ranking in 2012.)
“Africa is quite an important market for the Chinese arms industry because it is a stepping stone” to becoming a first-tier arms exporter, said Pieter D. Wezeman, the chief author of the SIPRI report, noting that China’s offerings are far too inferior to compete in the industrialized arms market. “They have to start somewhere,” he said.
Some of those arms have been diverted to conflict zones under U.N. sanctions.
In May 2011, a team of U.N. arms experts collected several high-explosive incendiary cartridges in the Darfur town of Tukumare, where Sudanese armed forces had recently battled rebels, according to a confidential report that was produced by three U.N. arms experts and first publicly disclosed by the London-based newsletter Africa Confidential.
The cartridges — which were manufactured in China in 2010, more than five years after the arms embargo first went into effect — were compatible with weapons systems used in Sudan’s Russian-made Mi-24 attack helicopters and Su-25 ground attack aircraft. But China rebuffed requests by a U.N. panel to attempt to trace the cartridges back to their manufacturer.
It was not the first time.
A review of Chinese compliance compiled by SIPRI showed that China has routinely provided panel members with incomplete answers when confronted with evidence of Chinese arms in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Somalia, where China declined a request from a U.N. panel that discovered 15 Chinese RPGs in the hands of Somali pirates.
It is in the case of Darfur, where Chinese ammunition has become a feature of annual U.N. reports, China has moved most aggressively to clamp down on a panel’s findings.
In 2011, China blocked the release of the Darfur panel’s report, then singled out the arms expert, Holger Anders of Germany, who had uncovered boxes of Chinese cartridges, and dismissed his work as unprofessional.
“An undergraduate student could have done better work; nothing was verified; it was nothing more than hearsay,” China’s delegation told the panel, according to an account provided by an official familiar with the matter. Anders responded by presenting the Chinese with an envelope filled with cartridges and asking them to analyze them themselves, according to the official, who declined to speak for the record because of the sensitivity of the issue.