Weapons proliferation is a delicate issue, but it has become a key manifestation of the growing global competition between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).All states partake in physical arms transfers, and especially with the advent of theInternet and other electronic technology, information transfer is impossible to completely prevent. Shaping trends in international weapons transfers to U.S. will is a priority of theUnited States, and the most disconcerting problems arise when powerful states vital toU.S. interests engage in arms transfers with adversaries of the United States. First on thelist of states with whom the United States has a complex relationship encompassing both partnership and opposition is, of course, the PRC.Since the foundation of the PRC in 1949, Beijing has, as has almost every powerful state, used arms sales as a means to project political or military influence andcontain its foes. A significant problem in studying Chinese arms transfers, however, isBeijing’s noted history of underreporting information in many categories, of which armstransfers is one. While Chinese arms have found their way all over the globe, many of the most important deals, especially over the past decade or two, have been with theMiddle East. Particularly notable arms deals between the PRC and the Middle East have been those with both Iran and Iraq during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War and countlessarrangements with other regional players transferring information or materiel for nuclear and chemical weapons.
These and other weapons transfers are a physical manifestationof the Sino-Middle Eastern relationship, one that is fraught with complexities.China and the Middle East first interacted in the 1930s as Nationalist-controlledChina, in the throes of wars—external against Japan, and internal between the
Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2004-2011
, (report prepared for members of Congress by the Congressional Research Service; Washington, DC: US GPO, August 2012), p. 10.