Can China overtake Russia as a global arms supplier after many years of collaboration ?
From 1992 to 2007, China imported 84% of its weapons from Russia, with the PLA (Popular Libertion Army, the Chinese Army) buying a little bit of everything from fighter jets to air defense systems. to torpedo destroyers to submarines from Moscow.
However, the Chinese did not remain idle and gradually began to carry out reverse engineering operations on Russian weapons, rebuilding them on a national basis.
Some of China's newer weapons, most notably J-11 fighters and HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, appear to be nearly identical to earlier variants purchased from Russia. In December 2019, Rostec publicly accused China of illegally copying several Russian weapons over the past two decades.
Despite these concerns, the arms trade between the two countries continued to flourish. From 2014 to 2015, Moscow agreed to supply Beijing with six battalions of the S-400 air defense system and 24 Su-35 fighters, some of Russia's most advanced weapons.
Now, it is unclear how long China will need Russian weapons. In just 20 years, China's arms sector has gone from a fledgling industry to one of the world's leading sectors. Not only can Beijing satisfy most of its military needs, it also exports to customers ranging from Pakistan to Serbia.
China's rise as an arms manufacturer has been supported by a rapid rise in military spending. According to SIPRI, China's defense budget has increased 85% over the past decade, reaching $ 261 billion in 2019. Although Russia has increased its military spending under President Vladimir Putin in the past, the increase is been much more modest, and defense spending has been gradually declining since 2015.
Despite the Kremlin's recent efforts to stimulate the domestic tech sector, Russia has not been as successful. Experts warn that Russia is lagging behind in key emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and that unless that changes, its defense industry will have a hard time keeping pace with China and the United States.
“Russia doesn't have giants like Microsoft or Huawei that produce technologies that can be used for civilian and military purposes,” said Kozyulin of the PIR Center. "Instead, the government itself has to create everything from scratch, which is very expensive and time-consuming."
As China became more advanced, Russia began exploring arms co-development opportunities with Beijing. In 2016, the two countries collaborated to develop and manufacture over 200 next-generation heavy helicopters for PLA by 2040. Another important collaboration was announced in August, with a joint program to build conventional-powered submarines.
However, the relationship is changing: currently, while the Russian design superiority still allows to maintain control at this stage, then the production is made in China using local subcontractors, with the loss of control of the production process by Moscow.
But other experts are skeptical that such a deal is sustainable in the long term. Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher at the SIPRI Arms and Military Spending Program, said Moscow may be too far behind to keep Beijing's interest.
"I expect the Russians to be completely out of military supplies to the Chinese within five to ten years," he said. "The Russians will try to see if they can somehow get their hands on Chinese technology to compensate for their delay, and in some cases they are not going anywhere anymore."
So in the near future Moscow could find itself beaten in international competition by what, until yesterday, was its pupil who limited itself to copying Russian secondary models. Moscow should open up to military collaboration with the West if it does not want to risk finding itself in the technological rear.
This is a machine translation of a post published on Scenari Economici at the URL https://scenarieconomici.it/la-sfida-militare-cino-russa-penchino-rischia-di-togliere-grosse-fette-di-mercato-a-mosca/ on Mon, 25 Jan 2021 13:41:34 +0000.