Special Report

China’s 8 Biggest Weapons Manufacturers, and What They Build

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China is in the midst of the largest military buildup of any country since World War II, a development that is sounding alarm bells in Washington. A November 2022 Defense Department report identified China as “the most consequential and systemic challenge to our national security and to a free and open international system.” 

Chinese defense spending hit an all-time high of $270 billion in 2021, up 90% from an inflation-adjusted $142 billion a decade earlier, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. With the increased spending, China has expanded its arsenal of both nuclear and conventional weapons considerably, while also developing advanced weapons systems deployable in the air, land, sea, and space. 

China’s rapid militarization has occurred alongside President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power in Beijing, mounting incidents of unprofessional or unsafe behavior of Chinese aircraft and vessels targeted at American and allied forces, and growing evidence of China’s ambitions to coercively unify Taiwan. 

With U.S.-Chinese relations at their lowest point in half a century and few indications of de-escalation, several defense contractors in China are reporting billions in revenue from weapons sales to the government. (Here is a look at the nations ramping up military spending the most.)

Using 2021 arms sales revenue data from SIPRI Arms Industry Database, 24/7 Wall St. identified the eight largest Chinese weapons manufacturers. Among the companies on this list, 2021 arms sales revenue ranged from $1.8 billion to $21.6 billion.

The companies on this list are large, state-owned conglomerates that, through their subsidiaries, produce everything from small arms to intercontinental ballistic missiles. Not surprisingly, all but one of these companies reported increasing revenue from 2020 to 2021. 

Notably, China National Nuclear Corporation, or CNNC, reported a 13% year-over-year arms sales increase, at a time when China’s nuclear stockpile increased from an estimated 350 warheads to over 400, based on estimates from the nonpartisan Arms Control Association. According to the DOD, at this pace, China will have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035. (Here is a look at the countries with the most nuclear weapons.)

Through a series of executive orders put in place during both the Trump and Biden administrations, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on every company on this list. The orders effectively ban American investors from providing any financial backing to the Chinese defense industry. 

Click here to see the largest Chinese weapons manufacturer.

8. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)
> Arms sales in 2021: $1.81 billion (approx. 5% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +13.3%
> Notable weapons systems or services: Nuclear weapons components
> Headquartered in: Beijing

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7. China South Industries Group (CSGC)
> Arms sales in 2021: $5.91 billion (approx. 13% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +1.5%
> Notable weapons systems or services: Type 625E AA Gun Missile Integrated Weapon System
> Headquartered in: Beijing

6. China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC)
> Arms sales in 2021: $11.13 billion (best estimate – approx. 21% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +9.3%
> Notable weapons systems or services: Type 003 class air-craft carriers, Type 054A frigate, Coast Guard 3901 patrol vessel
> Headquartered in: Beijing

5. China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC)
> Arms sales in 2021: $14.52 billion (best estimate – approx. 31% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +12.6%
> Notable weapons systems or services: HQ-17AE short-range missile defense, ZR-1500 integrated early warning system, FK-3000 air-defense missile weapon system
> Headquartered in: Beijing

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4. China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC)
> Arms sales in 2021: $14.99 billion (best estimate – approx. 27% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +-5.6%
> Notable weapons systems or services: Air defense radar, missile control radar, surveillance radar, electronic warfare hardware and software
> Headquartered in: Beijing

3. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC )
> Arms sales in 2021: $19.10 billion (best estimate – approx. 44% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +4.2%
> Notable weapons systems or services: Rainbow UAV, HQ-10 short range surface-to-air missile, strategic nuclear missiles, air and missile defense equipment
> Headquartered in: Beijing

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2. Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)
> Arms sales in 2021: $20.11 billion (approx. 25% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +9.0%
> Notable weapons systems or services: J-10 Vigorous Dragon Multirole Tactical Fighter jet, Xian H-6 long-range bomber, CAIC Z-10 attack helicopter, Wing Loong 3 drone
> Headquartered in: Beijing

1. China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (NORINCO)
> Arms sales in 2021: $21.57 billion (approx. 26% of annual company revenue)
> 1-yr. change in arms sales (inflation adj.): +10.7%
> Notable weapons systems or services: QBZ-191 assault rifle, PF-98 anti-tank rocket launcher, Type 69 Main Battle Tank
> Headquartered in: Beijing

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