CHINESE WEAPONS: RIFLES, STEALTH FIGHTERS, AIRCRAFT CARRIERS AND ARMS IMPORTS

SKS SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLE

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Laser gun
One of the most popular weapons used by skinheads, urban gang members and other gun enthusiasts is the semiautomatic SKS, a Chinese-made infantry rifle that was once used against American troops in Vietnam. In 1993 more than 955,756 Chinese rifles, most of them SKS's, were imported into the U.S.”more rifles than made by all U.S. manufacturers in 1992. Some police officers have called it America's first mass-market assault weapon. [Source: Erik Larson the Wall Street Journal]

Neo-Nazi and street gangs like them like them, police say, because of "their power, their exotic origin and the fact they skirt virtually every firearm regulation in the U.S.”all this for sometimes as little as $55.95." "In essence," a U.S. government official told the Wall Street Journal, "they are high-tech firearms at Saturday Night Special prices."

"SKS rifles have come to the U.S.," wrote Erik Larson the Wall Street Journal, "through the convergence of domestic and international forces that date back to 1978 when China's leadership launched a drive to modernize industry, farming and its army. Deng Xiaoping slashed troop strength, orders for arms and military budgets. He authorized the army to make up the shortfall by converting military plants to production of consumer goods...Among the myriad of products the military chose to produce and export were motorcycles, refrigerators---and assault rifles, including SKS rifles and semiautomatic pistols---for export."

The sale of these weapons was prohibited in 1995 with a ban on import of semi-automatic rifles. Three Chinese officials were arrested in 1996 in a U.S. Justice Department sting in which two undercover agents paid $700,000 for a container filled with 2,000 Chinese-made AK-47s. It was the largest seizure of illegal automatic weapons in U.S. history. The three officials had ties with China's two main arms firms: China North Industries Corp. (Norinco) and Poly Technologies.

The Chinese-made MAK-90, an AK-47-like rifles that can be equipped with a silencer and grenade launcher, was illegally imported to the United States.

China, Russia, the United States and Israel didn't sign the anti-mine treaty. China has 110 million stored mines:, compared to 11 million in the United States.

Good Websites and Sources: Sources on the Chinese Military http://newton.uor.edu ; Chinese Military Guide globalsecurity.org ; Chinese Military Power www.comw.org ; Defence Talk Pictures of Chinese Military defencetalk.com ; Sino Defence sinodefence.com ; Chinese Government Site on the Chinese Military chinatoday.com Chinese Spies: Wikipedia List of Chinese Spies Wikipedia ; 60 Minutes Video of Pentagon Employee Selling Secrets to Chinese Spy cbsnews.com ; Chinese Spy Caught on a Security Camera washingtontimes.com Links in this Website: CHINESE MILITARY Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE ARMED FORCES Factsanddetails.com/China ; MISSILES, NUCLEAR BOMBS AND SPACE WEAPONS Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE MILITARY, HACKERS AND SPIES Factsanddetails.com/China ; POLICE IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; TERRORISM AND BOMBINGS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; GOVERNMENT IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China

Chinese Air Force

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Chinese-built J-10 fighter
The Chinese Air force contains 470,000 airmen, 115 bombers, 456 jet fighters, and 400 ground attack jets, including around 200 Su-27-s and 30 Su-30s.

The Chinese have had little success developing sophisticated supersonic fighters. A program to develop a jet fighter, the F-10, began in the 1980s but didn’t manage to get a prototype into the air until the late 1990s. Eventually the Chinese just gave up on the project and upgraded its air force by purchasing 50 Russian-made SU-27 fighters at bargain prices in 1992 after the break-up of the Soviet Union and have plans to assemble 150 of these fighters themselves.

The Sukhoi SU-27s is the top of the line Russian fighter. Comparable to an F-16s, it shoots air-to-air missiles and can reach speeds of twice the speed of sound. The Chinese reportedly are totally satisfied with the planes and complain about the difficult in getting spare parts. And maintenance.

In 1996, China bought 50 Russian attack jets. In July 2001, it signed a $2 billion deal to buy 45 Su-30 MKK ground attack fighter jets. In 2002, it ordered 40 more of the same planes plus 300 PM2 anti-aircraft missiles. In 2003, it signed a $1 billion deal for 24 more Su-30MKK fighters. The Su-30 is all-weather, multi-purpose fighter. The planes and the PM2 missiles strengthened China's ability to attack Taiwan.

China launched a new advanced fighter jet, the Jian-10 (J-10), in late 2006. It is almost entirely built in China with the exception of the Ukraine- and Russian-made turbo-fan engines. China has tested an even more advanced fighter, the J-11B, which is said to have stealth capabilities. It is expected to have 2,000 warplanes by 2020, including 150 fourth-generation planes equipped with sophisticated avionics.

The Chinese have tested an AWACS-style radar plane---the KJ-2000---and plans volume production of the plane in 2008. Based on a Russian model, the KJ-2000, it is said to be able to track 80 to 100 targets at one time.

Most of the Chinese air force, however, is comprised of 450 Korean-War-era fighters. China has no long-range strategic bombers. It still lacks midair refueling, space-based information services, and airborne reconnaissance and battle management platforms. Many of the Su-27 spend too much on the ground for lack of maintenance.

China’s Stealth Fighter

Pictures of a Chinese-made, twin-engine J-20 advanced stealth fighter jet appeared on several websites in December 2010 and alter appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. The Pentagon said that although images seemed to indicate they a working prototype there still years away from being to put stealth aircraft into service.

The Chinese government later confirmed that it had test flown the stealth fighter. Pictures of undergoing tests at an airfield in Chengdu, Sichuan appeared. The revelation highlighted China’s massive military spending, showed the Chinese military was far more advanced than many people thought and raised questions about Chinese intentions. U.S. officials seemed be surprised but not alarmed. They pointed out the J-20 can’t even travel at supersonic speeds.

The Taiwan-based China post reported: “As far as stealth fighters are concerned, the Chinese prototype J-20 is perhaps too eye-attracting... Hours before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing, the prototype was taken for a 20-minute test flight. China’s President Hu Jintao appeared to not have know about the development of China’s first stealth fighter until he was told about by visiting American defense officials.

Russia 'Helping' China with Stealth Fighter Technology

In August 2011, Reuters reported, “Similarities between a new Chinese fighter jet and a prototype Russian plane have brought suggestions that Moscow may be quietly helping Beijing compete with the world's top military powers. Experts say the fifth-generation J-20 fighter, which made its maiden flight in January in front of the visiting U.S. defence secretary, could have its origins in the Mikoyan 1.44 stealth jet that never made it to the production line. [Source: Reuters, August 18,, 2011]

A source close to Russia's defence industry said the similarities suggested Mikoyan technology had been passed into the hands of Chinese arms designers. "It looks like they got access to documents relating to the Mikoyan---the aircraft that the Ministry of Defence skipped over in its tender to create a stealth fighter," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said it was not clear whether such a transfer of technology had been legal. Analysts say Russia's assistance to the Chinese may help Moscow keep tabs on the rising military power's defence capabilities of its eastern neighbour.

Independent analyst Adil Mukashev, who specialises in ties between Russia and China, suggested there had been a financial transaction. "China bought the technology for parts, including the tail of the Mikoyan, for money," he said. China's defence ministry declined a request for comment. Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), which oversees production of the Mikoyan jets, denies any technology or design transfer took place.

Only the U.S. has an operational fifth-generation fighter, which is nearly impossible to track on radar. Russia is working to start serial production of its prototype craft in the next five to six years. China's creation of such a plane would raise the country into an elite group of military powers, although analysts say it will take years to perfect the craft. The source said Chinese officials had been invited to the plane's first public display when Russia was in the early stages of creating a fighter jet to compete with the U.S. F-22.

Russia, the world's leading energy producer, has fed China, the largest energy consumer, with natural gas and oil in its bid to become a global power. But it has been unable to keep up with China's military spending, which was second only to that of the U.S. in 2010.

China, once a big buyer of Russian tanks, helicopters and jet fighters, has slowed its purchases from Moscow as its own production grew but military ties remain. China's ambassador to Russia, Li Huei, was quoted last year as saying defence co-operation with Russia was moving beyond the buying and selling of weapons. "The Chinese aerospace industry is booming and developing rapidly," said Mikhail Pogosyan, head of UAC. "In the aerospace industry what matters is the experience you have---not only to start a project but to see it through," he said on the sidelines of Russia's air show, MAKS.

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Chinese destroyer

Chinese Navy

The Chinese Navy contains 250,000 sailors, 63 submarines, 18 destroyers and 34 frigates. The navy is relatively weak compared to the United States. It has no aircraft carriers, compared to 24 out of the world’s 36 possessed by the United States, and has 263,064 tons of naval vessel compared to 2.86 million tons possessed by the United States (the world’s total is 4.04 million tons).

China relies on the United States Navy to keep important shipping lanes, vital for its trade, around Asia open. Chinese navy ships docked in Guam in October 2003. American navy ships docked in Zhanjian in southern Guangdong Province a month earlier.

Feeling threatened by American naval power, China has been modernizing its missiles, submarines, radar, cyber-warfare and anti-satellite weapons. Aircraft carrier battle group with submarines and surface ships are expected to be deployed in 2020.

The Chinese navy is currently extending its reach in the Pacific, with the goal of establishing a “blue water navy” and, some say, has the aims of displacing the United States as the predominate power n the western Pacific and being able to blockade Taiwan long enough for other forces to overwhelm the island’s defenses. Chinese nuclear-powered submarines have been seen with satellites and reconnaissance planes cruising off of U.S. military bases in Saipan and Guam and in Japanese waters near Okinawa. In response to those and other threats the United States has placed 60 percent of its submarines in the Pacific, compared to 40 percent in the Cold War era.

China is in the process of trying to convert its surface navy into a modern cruise-missile navy. In 1996, China bought two Sovremenny-class Russian destroyers, with SS-N-22 anti-ship missiles, from Russia. As part a $4 billion package in 2001, China purchased more naval weapons, including two more Sovremenny-class Russian destroyers, bring the total to four. As of 2005, China had deployed two of these destroyers outfit with supersonic Sizzler cruise missiles.

China plans to convert more decommissioned navy ships into fishery patrol vessels and use them to extend China’s reach on the South China Sea in a relatively benign way.

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Varyag

Chinese Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft carriers are seen as vital to China’s future attempts to annex Taiwan and keep shipping lanes open. China purchased four aircraft carriers in the 1980s and 1990s: three from the former Soviet Union and one from Australia. The Russian-made Minsk is berthed in Hong Kong. One purchased from Australia has been scraped. The Kiev, once a proud possession of the Soviet navy sits in the Bohai Gulf. It is touted as a tourist attraction. On the hanger side is a model of J-10, a new Chinese fighter. On the other side are performers in ethnic costume do ethnic dances.

The most modern aircraft carrier, the 67,500-metric-ton Varyug, was from Ukraine in 1998 for $20 million,. The aircraft carrier is currently sitting in the northern port of Dalian. The Chinese government claims the carrier is a tourist attraction. There is evidence that repair work is being done to prepare it for action.The 60,000-ton Varyag is been refitted to serve as training ship for carrier- aircraft and crew. Some analysts believe that China may begin building it own carriers by 2010 and assembling a aircraft carrier battle group not long after that.

Some American military analysts see China’s increased shipbuilding capability and sophistication as a threat in that Chinese shipbuilders are quickly gaining the know-how and ability ti make large and advanced warships such as aircraft carriers.

China was slated to begin construction os its first aircrafts carriers in Shanghai in 2009, completing two mid-size 50,000-ton carriers by 2015. The vessels will be conventionally powered not nuclear powered, and will patrol the South China Sea and possibly sea lanes in the Malacca Strait and Indian Ocean and will use electrical control parts from Russia, which have already been ordered.

China Acknowledges It is Building an Aircraft Carrier

In June 2011, a top Chinese military official has confirmed that Beijing is building an aircraft carrier, marking the first acknowledgement of the ship's existence from China's secretive armed forces. In an exclusive interview published June 7, the Hong Kong Commercial Daily quoted Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, as saying the 990-foot refurbished Soviet carrier "is being built, but it has not been completed". The Hong Kong paper quoted anonymous sources as saying the carrier will be launched by the end of June at the earliest. The ship, which an expert on China's military has said would be used for training and as a model for a future indigenously-built ship, was originally built for the Soviet navy. Construction was interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. [Source: AFP, June 8, 2011]

Jens Kastner wrote in the Asian Times, “For years, military enthusiasts flying over the seaport city of Dalian in northeast China knew well when to press their noses against the cabin windows. On the approach to Dalian's Zhoushuizi airport, the construction of China's first aircraft carrier could be spotted, with workers busy along the length of the 302-meter long, 70.5-meter wide ship. They installed engines and other heavy equipment, completed the radar mast, installed the shipborne multi-function Active Phased Array Radar (APAR) and Sea Eagle radar as sensors, hauled up Type 730 close-in weapon system (CIWS) seven-barreled 30mm machine guns to destroy incoming anti-ship missiles and enemy aircraft at short range, and tinkered with the fully automatic fire-and-forget Flying Leopard 3000 Naval (FL-3000N) air defense missile system. [Source: Jens Kastner, Asia Times, April 13 2011]

“Once the steely giant blew out steam and exhaust, and workers begun painting its hull the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLA Navy's) standard light gray-blue, it became clear that the 67,000 tonne-carrier was never meant to become a Macau casino float as the Chinese had initially claimed. The story of how the Varyag - once destined to become a Soviet navy multi-role aircraft carrier - ended up in Chinese hands may inspire novelists or screenplay writers for decades. Her keel was laid down in 1985 in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, only to have construction stopped - while the ship was structurally complete but without electronics - in 1992 following the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union. The carrier was first laid up unmaintained, then stripped, and by 1998 she had lost her engines, a rudder, as well as her operating systems. Finally, the Varyag was put up for auction by Ukraine.” [Ibid]

“Having had gross domestic product (GDP) fall 60 percent from 1991 to 1999 and suffering five-digit inflation rates in a deep economic slowdown, the Ukrainians warmly welcomed an unheard-of Hong Kong company which purchased the vessel for US$20 million. The colossus embarked on a 28,200-kilometer journey with the Hong Kong firm saying it wanted the vessel to become a casino in the southern Chinese gambling city of Macau. The Varyag was towed out of the Black Sea, through the Bosporus strait, the Straits of Gibraltar, around the Cape of Good Hope and through the Straits of Malacca.” [Ibid]

“But Macau wasn't the final destination. In 2005, the Varyag ended up at a dry dock at Dalian, home to the PLA Dalian Naval Academy. There, China's first batch of carrier aviators began training in 2008, undergoing a four-year course of instruction to turn them into fighter pilots capable of operating from a carrier. It took a few years until Chinese state-run media broke the news that the carrier was being built. In early April, it was declared that China's first aircraft carrier could take to the sea as early as July 1.”

“However, according to unconfirmed reports in Western and Taiwanese media, the Varyag has been renamed. Now, the she is allegedly to be called the Shi Lang, pennant number 83, a name that is not popular in Taiwan. Shi Lang (1621-1696), the historical figure after whom China's first aircraft carrier is allegedly to be named, has also been providing the Chinese with a useful historical narrative of late. The Ming general, reputedly a genius in naval warfare, defected to the Manchu-Qing Dynasty, who by then had conquered all China except Taiwan.”

The Pentagon said that China could start building an aircraft carrier as early as 2010 and it now possesses powerful land-based anti-ship missiles capable of sinking an aircraft carrier, which can be used to challenge to U.S. naval power.

One problem that China has as it aims to add aircraft carriers to it naval arsenal is how to train its pilots. Most of the countries that possess carriers are rivals of China and not too keen on helping them out. One country that has a carrier---one that was launched more than half a century ago---is Brazil and it has said it is willing to offer its services, some analysts speculate in return for helping to spruce up the ship.

China Admits It Has an Aircraft Carrier Program

In July 2011, China officially confirmed for the first time that it has an aircraft carrier program. Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as telling a regular press conference that China is making use of an imported aircraft carrier body---from the Varag---for refitting to be used for research and training. "We are currently refitting the body of an old aircraft carrier, and will use it for scientific research, experiments and training," Geng said.

The United States has welcomed China's mention of the carrier, calling it a step toward better transparency between the Pacific powers. China's People's Liberation Army - the largest armed force in the world - is extremely secretive about its defense programs, which benefit from a huge and expanding military budget boosted by the nation's runaway economic growth. The PLA also operates the country's navy.

The old Soviet carrier's refitting has been one of China's worst-kept military secrets. Pictures of it sitting in Dalian harbor have circulated on Chinese websites for months, and it has been widely discussed in state media. Passengers on commercial airplanes can see the carrier when they fly into Dalian.

The Varyag is a midsize aircraft carrier with ski jump-style flight deck. It began test sailing in August 2011. The maiden voyage was a low key affair. The vessel was towed to open waters where the engines and steering were checked. China is the third Asian country to have a carrier after India and Thailand but it will take time before it can go to sea in Asian waters that have largely been the domain of the U.S. Navy since World War Two. "It will be a long while before China develops a fully-fledged carrier capability, it will take a long time to train the necessary crews... it may be up to decade until China has carrier capability," said Tim Huxley, director for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. [Source: Reuters, July 27, 2011]

China’s Domestically-Made Aircraft Carrier

In July 2011 it was learned that China had started construction of its first domestically made aircraft carrier, according to diplomatic and U.S. government source. Military sources close to developments in the Chinese Navy said the domestically made carrier is being constructed in a shipyard on Changxing Island in Shanghai. The sources said the new carrier will likely be midsize, similar to the Varyag, and carry Jian-15 jet fighters, which China has just developed. The fighters will likely take off from a ski jump-style flight deck as is done on the Varyag. When the domestic carrier is completed, the Chinese Navy will have two aircraft carriers in its fleet. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2011]

Though the new carrier is modeled after the Varyag, the military sources said it has great geopolitical significance, showing that China has acquired the technology to construct an aircraft carrier on its own. Security around the shipyard on Changxing Island has increased significantly since the start of this year, which military sources attribute to the start of construction of the carrier. According to military experts, even in the United States it takes at least five years from the start of construction of an aircraft carrier to its deployment. Thus it is likely that China will need seven to eight years until the domestically made carrier can be put to use. The experts also said China is constructing modern destroyers equipped with air-defense missiles to defend the carriers.

In early June 2011, Chen Bingde, the Chinese military's chief of the General Staff, told Hong Kong media that China was building an aircraft carrier, the first time a top officer of the Chinese military has acknowledged the fact. But he did not clarify whether the carrier being constructed referred to the Varyag or the other carrier. According to the diplomatic sources, another officer in the Chinese military said the Varyag cannot be called a domestically made carrier, and clearly stated that the carrier is another under construction in a different location. A U.S. government official also said that Washington regards the carrier referred to as China's domestically made one.

China’s Aircraft Carrier Naval Strategy

Part of the U.S. Defense Department's 2010 annual report, titled "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China," said China will be able to operate two or more aircraft carriers in the coming 10 years. The addition of the carriers to China’s Navy will likely raise concerns in neighboring countries, including Japan, whose ties with China have been strained over the Senkaku Islands; and Vietnam and the Philippines, which have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. It will also shake up stability in the Asia-Pacific region, which has been primarily maintained by the United States' overwhelming military power. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2011]

In late July 2011, according to to AFP, China needs at least three aircraft carriers to defend its interests. "If we consider our neighbors - India will have three aircraft carriers by 2014 and Japan will have three carriers by 2014,"Gen. Luo Yuan, a senior researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences, was quoted as saying by Beijing News. "So I think the number [for China] should not be less than three so we can defend our rights and our maritime interests effectively." [Source: AFP, July 30, 2011]

In August 2011, a news website run by China's defence ministry said the nation's aircraft carrier should handle territorial disputes. Guo Jianyue, a senior reporter at the top state-run military newspaper PLA Daily, said the carrier should be brought out for disputes. "Why did we build it if we don't have the courage and willingness to use the aircraft carrier to handle territorial disputes?" he asked in the article. "It is reasonable to use the aircraft carrier or other warships to handle disputes if there is any need. "The reason why we built a carrier is to safeguard China's maritime rights and interests more efficiently. We will be more confident and have more determination to defend our territorial integrity after we have carriers."

Beijing believes that the three Japanese carriers it referred to, built for helicopter operations, could eventually be converted into full aircraft carriers. Asked whether the carrier's addition to China's military arsenal would significantly raise the country's military capability, Geng said only that to "overrate or underrate the carrier's role are both incorrect."

China has been developing a carrier version of the Russian Su-27, calling it the J-15. There is already a Russian version of this, called the Su-33. Russia refused to sell Su-33s to China, when it was noted that China was making illegal copies of the Su-27 (as the J-11). Russia is angry China is making a carrier version of the Su-33 and claims China stole Russian technology.

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Song-class submarine

Chinese Submarines

China has around 60 submarines. It plans to expand the force to around 85 submarines by 2010. Their subs include nine nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs and one with modern Russian and domestic designs and armed with advanced Russian torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

In the late 1990s, China began embarking on a $10 billion submarine acquisition and upgrade program. In 1996, China bought four diesel-powered Kilo 636 attack submarines from Russia. In 2001, it bought eight more of the same kind of submarines from Russia at a cost of $1.6 billion.

The 636 Kilo-class submarines are 242 feet long and can carry of 52-member crew and six 21-inch torpedoes or mines. These subs increase China’s ability to blockade Taiwan and challenge American naval dominance in the region. They are ultra-quiet and have long-range anti-ship missiles and advanced weapons system The newest ones of have supersonic Sizzler cruise missiles

The Chinese produce their own nuclear powered submarines. The type 092 or Xia class are capable of carrying missiles with a range of 965 kilometers. The Chinese have had difficulty developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear-powered submarines. It has managed to build only one strategic-ballistic-missile submarine. The submarine is unreliable and rarely ventures out to sea. Its make so much noise and is so easy to find that it probably would be sunk in minutes in a battle field situations. But the Chinese are learning quickly.

China is developing nuclear-powered Shang submarines capable of penetrating deep into the Pacific. In December 2004, China launched a new class of nuclear submarines capable of carrying nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. The submarines, called “Type 094,” was launched much earlier than experts thought it would be. It is designed to carry 16 Jilang 2 (JL-2) ICBM missiles, which have a range of 9,700 kilometers and were successfully tested in June 2005. These too are fairly noisy and can be detected with sophisticated sonars and other devices.

Both the diesel-powered and nuclear-powered submarines used by China are clearly designed for more than protecting China’s coast. Chinese submarines could pose a threat to American aircraft carriers. In October 2006 a Chinese submarine “stalked” a U.S. aircraft carrier and approached within firing range without being detected. In January 2008, a Chinese submarine followed the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk in the Taiwan Strait but was detected and monitored with antisubmarine aircraft. Analysts say that in the future China could be able to approach an aircraft carrier and possibly sink it with a missile.

Problems with Chinese Submarines

John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, “One area in which China is thought to have made the greatest advances is in its submarines, part of what is now the largest fleet of naval vessels in Asia. That a Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine reportedly shadowed the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier and surfaced undetected four miles from the ship in October 2006 sparked concerns that China could threaten the carriers that are at the heart of the U.S. Navy's ability to project power. [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, Saturday, December 25, 2010]

China tried to buy Russian nuclear submarines but was rebuffed, so it launched a program to make its own. Over the past two years, it has deployed at least one of a new type of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine called the Jin class and it may deploy as many as five more. The Office of Naval Intelligence said the Jin gives China's navy its first credible second-strike nuclear capability; its missiles have a range of 4,000 miles. But in a report last year, the ONI also noted that the Jin is noisier than nuclear submarines built by the Soviets 30 years ago, leading experts to conclude that it would be detected as soon as it left port.

"There's a tendency to talk about China as a great new military threat that's coming," said Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. But, when it comes to Chinese submarines carrying ballistic missiles, he said, "they could be sitting ducks."

Another problem is that China's submariners don't train very much. China's entire fleet of 63 subs conducted only a dozen patrols in 2009, according to U.S. Navy data Kristensen obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, about a tenth of the U.S. Navy's pace. In addition, Kristensen said there is no record of a Chinese ballistic-missile sub going out on patrol. "You learn how to use your systems on patrol," he said. "If you don't patrol, how can you fight?"

Chinese Submarine Accidents

In May 2003, 70 people were killed in an accident aboard a Chinese diesel submarine off the coast of China. The government was not forthcoming with details about the accidents. Media reports said a “mechanical fault.” One naval officer told a foreign newspaper that the ship’s diesel engines failed to shut down and sucked out all the oxygen in the cabin, suffocating the crew. The submarine was towed to a port and eerily hardly had a scratch on it.

The vessel was a 1,584-ton Ming-class submarine, described as a Chinese refinement of an outdated Soviet model. It was designed to carry a crew of 50. Why it was carrying 70 was not clear. It was unusual for the government to report such an accident. Leaders Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao were shown consoling family members of the victims. Two senior naval officers were “severely punished.”

Chinese Arms Imports

China and India were the world’s largest importers of conventional weapons in 2009 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Overall China is a relatively small player in the weapons export business, selling about $380 million of weapons a year, compared to $7 billion by the United States.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Iran was the second largest buyer of Chinese weapons between 2005 and 2009. Sales included more than 1,000 surface-to-air missiles, and 50 infantry fighting vehicles. None of the sales violated international sanctions against Iran.

China has been the world's top weapons importer since the mid 1990s. Between 1995 and 2000, it ordered more than $17.8 billion worth of weapons. Between 2000 and 2005 it imported about $11 billion worth of weapons. Its biggest supplier is Russia. It also gets weapons from France, Brazil, Israel, the Ukraine and other former Soviet states.

Top weapons importers in 2002: 1) China ($3.6 billion); 2) South Korea ($1.9 billion); 3) India ($1.4 billion) and 3) Oman ($1.3 billion).

Russia and Israel are China’s largest suppliers of weapons. Arms purchases were up 7 percent in 2003. Major arms purchases from Russia in the early 2000s included 24 Su-30 fighter aircraft for $1 billion and SA-20 surface-to-air missiles for $500 million. A plan by Israel to sell China a Phalco advanced airborne radar system for a $3 billion fell through because of U.S. objections.

See Russia

the European Union has said it may end its arms embargo on China---in place since the 1989 Tiananmen square protests---in early 2011. The United States and Europe have had an arms embargo on China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown. In 2005, member of the European Union proposed ending their 15 year embargo on the sale of weapons to China. The United States pressed the European Union not to end the sanctions because of China’s increasingly aggressive stance against Taiwan and argued the weapons could be used against Taiwan.. France and Germany pushed for an end to the sanctions calling them relic of the Cold War.

Even without U.S. objections the countries of the European Union have had a difficult time agreeing on what terms of the ban would imposed. France caused the most problems by insisted that the weapons sales be a secret. Chirac said the present embargo “didn’t make any sense.” The sale of weapons between China and Europe had been taking place even with the ban in place.

European Union arms sales to China double from $250 million in 2003 to $500 million in 2004.

Chinese Arms Exports

Between 2002 and 2007 China sold $7 billion worth of conventional weapons around the world mostly to Pakistan.

Arms exports (1995 through 1999): 1) the United States ($53.4 billion); 2) Russia ($14.6 billion); 3) France ($11.7 billion); 4) Britain ($7.3 billion); 5) Germany ($6.1 billion); 6) the Netherlands ($2.2 billion); 7) China ($2.2 billion); 8) the Ukraine ($2.0 billion); 9) Italy ($2.0 billion); 10) Canada ($1.1 billion); 11) Israel ($1.1 billion). [Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute]

In the 1980s, China sold arms to nearly anybody that had the money: Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia both sides in the Iran-Iraq war. China has built a naval frigates for Pakistan and has order to make three more. Chinese arms sales to Burma, Iran and Pakistan has been criticized by the U.S.

The United States has criticized China for shipping “militarily significant” supplies of arms to Iran and North Korea. In 2007, the Russian and Israeli media reported that Beijing had plans to sell home-designed fighter jets to Iran.

The U.S. Defense Department also has reported that Chinese companies have helped Iran develop chemical weapons. China has also been accused China of cooperating with Saudi Arabia to build missiles (See Saudi Arabia) and assisting Pakistan and Iran with their nuclear programs.

China has said that it would not help North Korea export arms by allowing its weapons to pass through Chinese territory.

The Chinese companies Dalian Sunny Industries and Bellamax were punished with sanctions by the United States government for violating a U.S. laws aimed at stopping the spread of missiles and weapons technology.

China Needs Russia for Key Military Technology

John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, “The Moscow Machine-Building Enterprise Salyut on the east side of town has put up a massive Soviet-style poster advertising its need for skilled workers. The New Year's party at the Chernyshev plant in a northwest suburb featured ballet dancers twirling on the stage of its Soviet-era Palace of Culture. The reason for the economic and seasonal cheer is that these factories produce fighter-jet engines for a wealthy and voracious customer: China. After years of trying, Chinese engineers still can't make a reliable engine for a military plane.[Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, Saturday, December 25, 2010]

The country's demands for weapons systems go much further. Chinese officials last month told Russian Defense Minister Anatoly E. Serdyukov that they may resume buying major Russian weapons systems after a several-year break. On their wish list are the Su-35 fighter, for a planned Chinese aircraft carrier; IL-476 military transport planes; IL-478 air refueling tankers and the S-400 air defense system, according to Russian news reports and weapons experts.

This persistent dependence on Russian arms suppliers demonstrates a central truth about the Chinese military: The bluster about the emergence of a superpower is undermined by national defense industries that can't produce what China needs. Although the United States is making changes in response to China's growing military power, experts and officials believe it will be years, if not decades, before China will be able to produce a much-feared ballistic missile capable of striking a warship or overcome weaknesses that keep it from projecting power far from its shores.

"They've made remarkable progress in the development of their arms industry, but this progress shouldn't be overstated," said Vasily Kashin, a Beijing-based expert on China's defense industry. "They have a long tradition of overestimating their capabilities." Ruslan Pukhov, the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategic Technologies and an adviser to Russia's ministry of defense, predicted that China would need a decade to perfect a jet engine, among other key weapons technologies. "China is still dependent on us and will stay that way for some time to come," he said.

Indeed, China has ordered scores of engines from the Salyut and Chernyshev factories for three of its new fighters - the J11B, a Chinese knock-off of the Russian Su-27; the J10, which China is believed to have developed with Israeli help; and the FC1, which China modeled on an aborted Soviet design. It also told Russia that it wants a third engine from another factory for the Su-35.

Tensions with Russia on Military Technology Matters

John Pomfret wrote in the Washington Post, “China's military relations with Russia reveal further weaknesses. Between 1992 and 2006, the total value of Russia's arms exports to China was $26 billion - almost half of all the weapons Russia sold abroad. But tensions arose in 2004 over two issues, Russian experts said. Russia was outraged when it discovered that China, which had licensed to produce the Su-27 fighter jet from Russian kits, had actually copied the plane. China was furious that after it signed a contract for a batch of IL-76 military transport planes it discovered that Russia had no way to make them. After receiving 105 out of a contracted 200 Su-27s, China canceled the deal and weapons negotiations were not held for several years. [Source: John Pomfret, Washington Post, Saturday, December 25, 2010]

Purchases of some items continued - S-300 air defense systems and billions of dollars worth of jet engines. An engine China made for its Su-27 knock-off would routinely conk out after 30 hours whereas the Russian engines would need refurbishing after 400, Russian and Chinese experts said. "Engine systems are the heart disease of our whole military industry," a Chinese defense publication quoted Wang Tianmin, a military engine designer, as saying in its March issue. "From aircraft production to shipbuilding and the armored vehicles industry, there are no exceptions."

When weapons talks resumed with Russia in 2008, China found the Russians were driving a harder bargain. For one, it wasn't offering to let China produce Russian fighters in China. And in November, the Russians said they would only provide the Su-35 for China's aircraft carrier program if China bought 48 - enough to ensure Russian firms a handsome profit before China's engineers attempted to copy the technology. Russia also announced that the Russian military would buy the S-400 air defense system first and that China could get in line.

Image Sources: Defence Talk

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated November 2012

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