“On some technology, they are now competitive on technology with European arms exports and very competitive on price.”
China has sold defence systems and co-developed a derivative of a Russian fighter with Pakistan and done smaller deals with African countries. There is also interest from Latin America.
Western analysts say China has a reputation for selling basic but reliable equipment with relatively few questions asked about its use, a key selling point.
But the range of products on display in Zhuhai is both increasing and gradually moving up in value, while remaining a decade or two behind the most advanced U.S. equipment.
For the first time at Zhuhai, China showed an export version of a long-range surface-to-air missile, the truck-mounted FD-2000, and a Predator-style UAV called the Wing Loong.
There was also a focus on systems that build relationships such as the L-15 trainer, which won its first export deal to an unidentified country at the show.
Admittedly, China’s other reputation for copying what it cannot make is unlikely to disappear any time soon.
A parlour game among delegates is to tick off the similarities between Chinese systems and foreign platforms.