China has overtaken Germany and France to become the world's number three arms exporter after the United States and Russia, with the global arms trade rising 16 per cent during the period 2010 to 2014 over the previous five years, a Stockholm-based think-tank said.
China, however, commands only 5 per cent of the multi-billion dollar world arms market compared to the combined 58 per cent of exports from the US and Russia, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute added in its annual report.
Germany's arms exports decreased by 43 per cent between 2005-2009 and 2010-14. However, it received several large arms orders in 2014 from Middle Eastern states.
The USA's share of the volume of international arms exports was 31 per cent in 2010-14, compared with 27 per cent for Russia.
The volume of US exports of major weapons rose 23 per cent between 2005-2009 and 2010-14. Russian exports of major weapons increased by 37 per cent between 2005-2009 and 2010-14. During the same period, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143 per cent, making it the third largest supplier in 2010-14, however still significantly behind the USA and Russia.
''The USA has long seen arms exports as a major foreign policy and security tool, but in recent years exports are increasingly needed to help the US arms industry maintain production levels at a time of decreasing US military expenditure'', said Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
Three Asian countries accounted for more than two-thirds of Chinese exports, with Pakistan buying 41 per cent of the total, followed by Bangladesh and Myanmar. Beijing also had 18 client nations in Africa during the period.
Of the top 10 largest importers of major weapons during the 5-year period 2010-14, five are in Asia - India (15 per cent of global arms imports), China (5 per cent), Pakistan (4 per cent), South Korea (3 per cent) and Singapore (3 per cent).
These five countries accounted for 30 per cent of the total volume of arms imports worldwide. India accounted for 34 per cent of the volume of arms imports to Asia, more than three times as much as China. China's arms imports actually decreased by 42 per cent between 2005-2009 and 2010-14.
India's main source was Russia, with 70 per cent of its purchases coming from Russia.
The United States had the most diverse clientele. South Korea, its top client, accounted for only nine per cent of total US business.
Ukraine and Russia also saw surges in exports, while German and French exports declined.
Arms imports to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states increased by 71 per cent from 2005-2009 to 2010-14, accounting for 54 per cent of imports to the Middle East in the latter period. Saudi Arabia rose to become the second largest importer of major weapons worldwide in 2010-14, increasing the volume of its arms imports four times compared to 2005-2009.
European arms imports decreased by 36 per cent between 2005-2009 and 2010-14. Developments in Ukraine and Russia may counter this trend after 2014 with several states bordering Russia increasing their arms imports, according to SIPRI.
SIPRI uses a five-year moving average to account for fluctuations in the volume of arms deliveries from year-to-year and doesn't provide monetary values, which, according to the institute, are often distorted by governments providing weapons as gifts or at below-market prices.