Arms Transfers between Russia and China: Neoclassical Realist Analysis

University essay from Lunds universitet/Graduate School

Abstract: After the years of the Cold War rivalry the relations between China and Russia reached one of the highest points in history in the early 2000’s. The arms trade became one of the major aspects of the bilateral relationship. China became one of the main buyers of the Russian arms in the 1990’s, even before the formal rapprochement happened. After reaching its peak in the beginning of the 2000’s the volume of the arms sales declined drastically in the end of the decade, when the two countries formed a weak strategic alignment. As the arms acquisitions change the power capabilities of states in the international system, a certain level of trust and similar political orientation is needed in order for one state to be willing to sell arms to the other. The study thus intends to investigate why the arms sales increased in the 1990’s, and subsided in the middle of 2000’s. The study is an intrinsic case study which aims to provide an in depth analysis of the phenomenon of arms trade between Russia and China. The research largely builds on the neoclassical realist theoretical framework and Krause waves of arms technology transfer model. The study concludes that both the increase and the decline of the arms exports can be mostly attributed to the role of domestic factors in the decision-making of the two states. The resumption of the arms trade on the previous scale is not likely to happen due to the arms transfer system conditions and new status both China and Russia acquired in the hierarchy of arms producers.

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