Determinants and directions for Chinese weapons imports

Bates Gill*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article assesses and presents the determinants and directions of Chinese acquisitions of weapons and weapons technology from abroad, focusing on major conventional weapons and their relevant technologies. Following a brief development of historical themes which continue to affect Chinese military-related imports today, the study considers the principal contemporary domestic and international determinants which contribute to shaping Chinese arms import policies, and the type of foreign arms acquisitions likely to result from those policies. In analysing past and current security policies, weapons development policies, foreign weapons procurement policies, the study reaches four main conclusions. First, a wide range of problems-including prohibitive cost, political and bureaucratic infighting, absorptive capacities, managerial and administrative roadblocks, and supplier controls-stand in the way of a Chinese military modernization strategy based on foreign procurement. Second, with the exception of Sino-Soviet cooperation in the 1950s, Chinese arms and arms technology acquisitions from abroad have consistently been relatively modest, sporadic, and problematic. Even in the case of current transfers from such suppliers as Israel and Russia, it is unclear the extent to which these countries are willing to part with significant amounts of top-of-the-Iine systems and technologies. Third, the impact upon international security of the improvement of Chinese military capability through the acquisition of foreign weapons and technology is not likely to manifest itself in violent military disruptiveness, but rather in the nuanced and steady expansion of Chinese power and influence in parts of East Asia around China’s periphery. Fourth, the military capabilities of China’s arms clients will probably not be significantly improved through the acquisition of foreign weapons and weapons technologies by China. In sum, Chinese military modernization through arms and technology imports will continue to be a slow and painful process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-382
Number of pages24
JournalPacific Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Arms imports
  • Arms procurement
  • Arms production
  • China
  • Military modernization
  • Military technology


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