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More Chinese Companies Are Exhibiting At Arms And Security

October 10, 2017

The BTR-4 has been exported to Indonesia and Kazakhstan.

One of Eastern Europe’s biggest arms shows starts today in the Ukrainian capital. The yearly International Specialized Exhibition Arms and Security brings hundreds of local firms, both state and privately owned, under one roof from October 10 to the 14th.

The event is organized by the ministries of defense and internal affairs together with the government’s own arms exporter Ukroboronprom in cooperation with the staff of the International Exhibition Centre, which serves as the venue. In what appears to be an emerging trend, exhibitors from China are becoming more visible. Arms and Security is dominated by Ukrainian companies with smaller participation from its neighbors, Bulgaria and Poland. For the Chinese to foray into the market suggests newfound confidence in either joint ventures or expanding their product distribution.

Last year, for example, only one Chinese company–an apparel manufacturer–showed up at Arms and Security. Now there are four. Who are they?

The Beijing Automation Control Equipment Institute (BACEI) is a subsidiary of CASIC, the aerospace conglomerate responsible for China’s high tech killer drones. It isn’t too surprising for BACEI, whose specialty is avionics and sensors, to dip its toes in Ukraine’s military-industrial sector since Beijing and Kyiv do have elaborate plans for joint production of aircraft parts.

Two other companies, Beijing Trueguard and Jiangsu Linry Innovation Material Technology, are probably hoping to corner the protective clothing market in Ukraine. Beijing Trueguard was at Arms and Security last year. Jiangsu Linry is the debutante this 2017. Keeping in mind the huge expansion of Ukraine’s armed forces in the last couple of years and the nasty stalemate along its eastern provinces, bulletproof vests and kevlar helmets will no doubt enjoy strong demand.

Another unicorn in Kiev this week is the Changchun Weihong Dongguang Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd. Or just “DG” for short. The state-owned firm doesn’t appear connected to China’s big military conglomerates. But it claims to have almost a half century’s worth of experience in manufacturing parts for the aerospace and energy sectors. Its current specialties are capacitors for circuit boards used on avionics and control systems. Judging by its website, BACEI could be a subcontractor for the J-10 multirole fighter.

For Chinese firms to try blazing fresh trails in Kyiv isn’t too strange. China is a longstanding foreign investor and trade partner. On the other hand, 20 years ago Ukraine allowed a Hong Kong-based shell company to buy an old aircraft carrier for pennies. The ship became the pride of the PLAN, whose marine forces also operate gigantic Zubr-class landing craft made in Ukraine.

It’s still far-fetched to expect Chinese firms might attempt selling complete weapon systems in Ukraine soon. Kyiv’s industrial base is quite broad, capable of rolling out missiles, tanks, and the world’s largest cargo plane, but shortages in skilled labor and poor investment has left this GDP-producing sector in shambles.

Chinese exhibitors aren’t the only Asian presence in Arms and Security in 2017. Seven exhibitors from Turkey and three from Pakistan are scouting for opportunities as well. Turkey’s enthusiasm for the Ukrainian market is a recent dalliance–the war with Russia forced Kyiv to seek NATO compliant parts and technology. Geography dictated that Turkey and its manufacturers are close enough for convenience.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has its Defense Export Promotion Agency (DEPO) and Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT), the manufacturer of the Al-Khalid tank, in the same venue. Pakistan’s state-owned companies build copies of the DShK machine gun, the RPG-7 and its rockets, 73mm recoilless rifle ammunition, 125mm tank shells and 122mm howitzer rounds, plus various hand grenades and mortars; all types of ordnance the Ukrainian army can use. Another singular participant is International Armored Group (IAG) based in the UAE, who are no doubt looking for customers of its mine-resistant vehicles.

21st Century Asian Arms Race (21AAR) is a media partner for Arms and Security 2017.

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