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Missiles, Tanks and Fighter Jets: China Is Eyeing More Middle East Arms Sales

Daniel J. Samet

As the global chessboard shifts, China is planning its next moves in the Middle East. The consensus holds that Beijing will look to grow its robust economic relationship with the region while avoiding political and military engagement, though that strategy may prove unworkable. The Middle East’s complexities, some argue, render it impossible to keep economics and politics separate. In coming years, arms sales are one avenue for the Chinese to deepen their geopolitical investment in the region.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) sold almost $16 billion in arms worldwide between 2008 and 2018, making it the fifth largest supplier. Top among its regional export markets is the Middle East, which, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power, imported over $10 billion in Chinese weapons between 2013 and 2017. Chinese arms are already part of the Middle East’s military landscape.

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