China strengthens its position in the African arms market

By Arie Egozi

China is entering into the African arms market pushing Russia out in some countries. The Chinese are taking advantage of the pressure put on the Russian defence industry as a result of the war in Ukraine.

Israeli sources say that this development should turn on red lights in Washington.

“As the Chinese do with their economic programs in Africa, they will do now with the increased sales of their weapons to African states and that will further increase their impact,” an Israeli source said.

The Chinese effort to achieve deeper penetration into African and Gulf states is reaching a new peak.

Middle Eastern sources said that China has stepped up its ballistic missiles program with Saudi Arabia.

According to media reports based on information from US intelligence agencies and satellite photographs, China is assisting Saudi Arabia in the al-Dawadami region as it develops its solid-fuel missile program. The satellite photographs show the solid fuel remnants and casting traces of missile engines.

In the 80 China sold some ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia. These have been upgraded but Riad wants new designs and China was ready to help in achieving that goal.

But African states are now in the focus of the Chinese expansion effort.

In the past the Chinese economic help to African states was the basis for Beijing influence in these countries. But according to the Israeli sources the war in Ukraine that has exhausted many of the Russian resources changed the situation. This is already affected the situation in some of the African states that had very close contacts with Russia. China has moved in very fast.

Galia Lavi , a senior researcher in the Israeli institute for national security studies (INSS) said that China has long relations with African states, mostly based on investment in infrastructure programs and other business that are based of supplying funding.

“Now the Chinese use the Russian situation caused by the war in Ukarine to move into these countries’ defence markets. The Chinese policy is to get the greatest possible influence in foreign countries and now they added weapon systems to the tools that help them achieve the goal.”

Lavi added that the Chinese also use the fact that the U.S pulled out of some regions in Africa,  and told the relevant countries: “The American left. We are here to supply economic help and now military help.”

The Chinese military assistance to some African states is not based only on weapon sales. In parallel, the Chinse are sending what they dub private military and security contractors (PMSC) to perform security missions in the African countries ports and other major infrastructure sites.

According to the RAND Corporation, Chinese PMSCs have been operating in 15 African countries, while Beijing has exported weapons or arms to 17 nations on the continent, according to the RAND Corporation.

Prof. Uzi Rabi an expert on Middle Eastern and African issues from the Dayan center in Israel said that the Chinse faster penetration into Africa should be one of the top worries of the U.S

He pointed to the fact that China in 2016 established a naval base in Djibouti. The United States, France, India, and Japan also have bases in this area that controls the very strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

This area, which also has bases for the United States, France, India, and Japan, enables actors from other nations to carefully watch and defend ships that are navigating the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Prof. Rabi added that the Chinese base is part of China’s master plan to be present in strategic points on the, maritime route to Europe.

“Beijing was very fast to take advantage of the diminishing status of the U.S in the region and now with Russia’s problems their actions will be even easier.”

Israeli sources added that Russia transferred “big numbers” of the Wagner group Russian mercenaries that operated in some African countries to fight in Ukraine and that also enabled China to bring in its “military observers”.

The Israeli sources also said that the growing Chinese presence in some African states will allow Beijing an easier way to operate its vast SIGINT operation aimed at learning as much as possible on the capabilities of U.S forces in Africa mainly at sea and in the air.



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