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China Edges Out U.K. As World's Fifth-Largest Arms Supplier

The U.S. still leads the world in one area — arms sales. But even there, China is closing the gap.

Made-in-China weapons have moved into the No. 5 slot, displacing U.K.-manufactured arms, but the Asian giant still trails far behind the U.S. and Russia, whose weapons account for 30 percent and 26 percent of the market, respectively, according to a new report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on Monday.

China's biggest customer? Pakistan. It made up 55 percent of Beijing's arms exports between 2008 and 2012, the Institute says.

"China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states," Paul Holtom, director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program, said in a statement.

The institute says:

The volume of Chinese exports of major conventional weapons rose by 162 percent between 2003–2007 and 2008–2012, and its share of the volume of international arms exports increased from 2 to 5 percent.

According to The Financial Times, China's overall military spending could catch up by 2025 to U.S. outlays, which are now 45 percent of global military expenditures.

The Guardian says:

China faces bans on Western military imports, dating back to anger over its crushing of pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. That makes its domestic arms industry crucial in assembling a modern military force as it continues to make claims over Taiwan and disputed maritime territories.

China has faced off recently with southeast Asian neighbors and Japan over conflicting claims to strings of islets in the South China Sea and East China Sea. At the same time, the United States has beefed up its militarily presence in the Pacific.

Other interesting details from SIPRI's report:

-- Russia accounted for 71 percent of all weapons exports to Syria between 2008 and 2012.

-- Arab states accounted for 7 percent of work arms exports, with missile defense systems making up a significant chunk.

-- North African states have increased imports by roughly 350 percent in the period 2003-2012, doubling the continent's overall arms purchases.

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