China accounted for a third of Asia’s military spending in 2016 and was looking to sell more arms abroad, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said in a report on Tuesday.
China’s overall defense budget last year was $145 billion (137 billion euros), 1.8 times higher than South Korea and Japan combined. China’s spending was topped only by the United States which spent $604.5 billion (572 billion euros) on defense in 2016.
On air power, China “appears to be reaching near-parity with the West,” IISS said, adding that Chinese-made drones had been seen in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
Its sales in Africa had moved beyond Soviet-era designs to exports of systems designed in China itself, the think tank’s report found.
China’s air force had introduced a “highly capable” short-range missile in a class only a handful of leading aerospace nations had been able to develop, it added.
Additionally, China’s long range air-to-air missile seen on exercise last year posed a risk for aircraft tankers and AWACS surveillance aircraft that previously loitered safe out of range.
Given China’s advances Western dominance “can no longer be taken for granted,” said IISS director John Chipman.