BEIJING - China has surpassed Germany to become the world's third largest arms exporter, a Stockholm-based think tank said in a report on Monday.
Exports of major arms from the world's second largest economy grew 143 per cent over the years 2010 to 2014, versus the previous five-year period, when China had ranked ninth globally, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report.
"Asian countries continue to expand their military capabilities, with an emphasis on maritime assets," Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, said in a news release.
More than 68 per cent of Chinese exports went to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Beijing also sold major arms to 18 African states.
Analysts say Chinese-made equipment has found eager buyers among countries at odds with the United States and its allies.
China was "extremely cautious and responsible" with its weapons exports, the country's Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
"We follow principles of helping the receiving country with its reasonable self-defence capabilities, not damaging global and regional peace and stability, and not interfering in the receiving country's internal politics," Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing.
China's arms imports fell 42 per cent between the years 2010 and 2014 compared with the prior five-year period, the report said.
China does not release figures for its arms sales.
China's military spending has seen double-digit growth for decades, and Beijing has poured funds into modernizing its armed forces as it takes a more assertive stance on territorial disputes in the region.
Experts say some Chinese-made equipment is comparable to US- or Russian-made counterparts, though precise information about its performance is scarce.
China's neighbours have reacted with ambivalence over the country's development of modern equipment, including a second aircraft carrier, drones and stealth fighter jets.