HomeExpansionismChina Outshines the U.S. and Russia at the Saudi World Defense Show

China Outshines the U.S. and Russia at the Saudi World Defense Show

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In a striking display of military technology and strategic prowess, China marked its formidable presence at the World Defense Show held in the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, outshining traditional defense powerhouses such as the United States and Russia. This exhibition, a global stage for nations to showcase their latest advancements in military hardware, saw China taking a lead role, particularly highlighting its advancements in drone technology—a sector of growing significance in modern warfare. The extensive array of Chinese military equipment on display not only underscored the nation’s technological advancements but also its strategic ambitions to carve out a significant niche in the global arms trade.

Amidst the vast expanses of the exhibition space, China’s military offerings commanded attention, with an array of armed and unarmed drones, precision guided bombs, and long-range air and missile defense systems dominating the showcase. Notably, the Wing Loong drones, along with FT series precision guided bombs and HQ surface-to-air missiles, stood out as exemplars of China’s cutting-edge technology in unmanned aerial systems. This exhibition was an opportunity for China to flex its technological muscles and attempt to eclipse its global rivals on what can be considered the world stage of defense exhibitions, akin to similar showcases in the Gulf region.

With an exhibition space sprawling over 4,668 square meters, China’s presence was not just significant in terms of the technology displayed but also in the sheer scale of its participation. This vast staging area, dedicated to “China Defense,” surpassed the exhibition spaces of other international participants, emphasizing China’s intent to assert its prominence in the defense sector. The presence of 36 Chinese companies, along with a flying display by the J-10 jets from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Ba Yi Aerobatic Team, marked a first for the World Defense Show, showcasing China’s growing confidence and ambition on the international stage.

The strategic implications of China’s dominant display are profound, especially considering the long-standing concerns of US officials regarding Beijing’s efforts to expand its influence in the Middle East. While no new orders by China were publicly recorded during the show, the extensive participation and the showcasing of advanced military technology sent a clear message about China’s aspirations in the global defense market. Organizers announced a total of 61 orders placed at the show, valued at SAR 26 billion ($6.9 billion), along with 73 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreements, involving several American and European companies. This suggests a vibrant and competitive market for defense products, with China positioning itself as a key player.

China’s focus on drones at the exhibition is particularly noteworthy in the context of modern military strategies, where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) play a pivotal role. The Wing Loong II armed drone, adorned with Saudi Arabia markings—a nod to previous sales to the Kingdom—underscored the significance of UAVs in China’s military export strategy. The display of advanced drone technology, including the HW150V hybrid vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone by lesser-known companies like Beijing-based Hoverwing Technology group, highlighted China’s diversified approach to capturing the global defense market.

The exhibition also underscored China’s deepening military ties with Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia, through joint naval training exercises and arms deals. This burgeoning relationship is emblematic of a broader trend where Middle Eastern countries are increasingly turning to China for military hardware, driven by factors such as ease of acquisition and the attractiveness of Chinese drones compared to their American counterparts, due to US sales restrictions.

By emphasizing advanced military technology, particularly in the realm of drones, China is not only demonstrating its technological capabilities but also positioning itself as a competitive alternative in the global defense market. Imagine advanced drones in the hands of developing nations with a propensity to attack their neighbors. In Africa, in the Middle East – high tech drones versus ground combatants with arms from the 1950’s? China will have no ethical problem selling, bloodbaths are in the making.

This development has profound implications for the dynamics of international arms trade and military alliances, signaling a potential shift in the balance of power and the emergence of China as a pivotal player in the defense sector.

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