Acceleration of China-Myanmar Economic Corridor to boost bilateral arms relationship, says GlobalData

The move to accelerate the construction of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) can help ramp up the existing arms-trade relationship between the two countries in the near future, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s report, ‘Myanmar Defense Market – Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecast to 2025’, reveals that China was the largest supplier of armed forces’ hardware to Myanmar between 2015-2019, with a 48.5% share of defense imports. China was followed by Russia and India with shares of 15.5% and 13.8%, respectively. In this same period, Myanmar accounted for 6% of Chinese defense exports.

Harry Boneham, Associate Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “China has historically been the primary defense partner for Myanmar, providing defense aid, largely through the supply of trainer and multirole aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, naval guns and radars. However, driven by the desire to reduce the dependence upon China and to acquire advanced platforms, the government had been attempting to cultivate other relationships with partners including Russia, Belarus, India, Ukraine and Israel.”

However, other regional iterations of the wider Belt and Road Initiative such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have shown that with closer bilateral ties comes an increased arms-trade relationship. Pakistan is now China’s largest defense export partner, accounting for 35% of exports between 2015-2019.

Boneham concludes: “The Chinese defense industrial base is tackling the historical deficiencies and developing advanced platform capabilities. A recent example is be the domestically developed WS-10C engines, which will be deployed on Chinese J-20 stealth fighters. The ability to supply advanced platforms such as these removes the incentive for Myanmar to look elsewhere, making a closer defense relationship more likely.”

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