Chinese made MBT-2000 Main Battle Tank

China is deeply concerned over Bangladesh’s proposed purchase of defence-related items from India under the US$ 500 million Line of Credit, reported ColomboGazette.

However, the real reason why China is keen on a bilateral military exercise with Bangladesh is because the latter has consistently been complaining about the poor state of Chinese defence equipment that it has imported.

China’s defence industries thus face a reputational risk in the eyes of the world!

It is well known that China has exported malfunctioning and defective military equipment, leaving countries short of what’s needed for their security while also draining their military budgets.

About 60% of China’s exports went to Algeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan from 2016-2020.

But the downside to being a major arms supplier is that China has earned an international reputation in recent decades as being the home of a prolific copycat culture.

This has also impacted its defence exports Arms sales from during 2016-2020 were 7.8% lower than during the previous five-year span, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In market share terms, China’s arms exports shrank from 5.6% to 5.2%, the data shows.

One of the major challenges with Chinese military equipment is that they manufacture mostly cloned equipment.

Everything the Chinese sell is backward technology that they copied from the West.

When some new technology comes out in the West, China quickly retro-engineers it and presents their pirated copy to the world.

The result of the low-quality defence equipment which also happens to be second rate duplicated technology is that in 2020, China’s exports dropped to just 759 million Trend-Indicator Values (TIV) the lowest level since 2008.

SIPRI’s TIV, does not directly measure the financial value of an arms sale in a specific currency; instead, allows for comparisons between countries and across time.

China has for long been supplying military equipment to the Bangladesh Armed Forces and in the past decade and Dhaka spent US$ 2.59 billion on acquiring Chinese defence equipment.

But in recent years, Bangladesh defence forces have started to complain to Chinese companies supplying spare parts for its corvettes, petrol crafts and inshore patrol vehicles about manufacturing defects and technical problems.

Some of the major problems that Bangladesh military forces have faced with Chinese hardware are listed below.

The Bangladesh Air Force reported several technical problems with the Chinese-made F-7 fighter aircraft.

Bangladesh has also informed that Chinese-made radar on its fighter aircraft have poor accuracy, and the aircraft itself lacks beyond-visual-range missile and airborne interception radar.

Notably, Bangladesh Air Force has reported problems with the firing of munitions loaded on the Chinese-manufactured K-8W aircraft shortly after they were delivered in 2020.

Bangladesh lost its two pilots when the K-8W aircraft they were flying crashed. Short-range air defence systems acquired for the Bangladesh military were reported to be defective.

The Bangladesh Army holds over forty Main Battle Tanks (MBT-2000) procured from NORINCO, China in 2012-13. NORINCO is reportedly facing difficulties in supplying spare parts to Bangladesh for the repair and maintenance of the tanks.

In 2022, the Bangladesh Army expressed its displeasure with China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO)’s supply of tank ammunition, rejecting it as not being tested.

The quality of Chinese naval platforms supplied to the Bangladesh Navy has also come under the scanner.

Chinese 053H3 Frigates (BNS Umar Farooq and BNS Abu Ubaidah) arrived at Mongla Port Bangladesh in 2020, after experiencing multiple defects en route.

This included a non-functioning navigation radar and gun system.

Ironically, the Chinese have asked for additional payment to repair these boats.

Offering a great discount, China sold two used Type-035G Ming-class submarines in 2013 to Bangladesh for just over US$ 100 million each.

However, these submarines were found to have outlived their utility. Repeated requests to China for assistance have gone unheeded.

There have been issues also with regard to the training of Bangladeshi personnel by China.

Reports indicate that Bangladesh air force officers were mistreated by Chinese officers at the Aviation University of Changchun.

The bottom line is that despite initial promises, Chinese military equipment has failed to pass post-delivery tests, leaving Bangladesh in a precarious position, without the expected level of security and depleting its military budget.

The lack of technological compatibility with Chinese military equipment is also costly.

As a recipient country, Bangladesh lacks trained personnel to solve problems and face difficulties in obtaining spare parts.

According to a 2023 RAND Corporation report the difficulties in acquiring replacement parts and lack of technological compatibility with the Chinese military equipment have turned into an expensive proposition for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh had to once withhold payment as the Chinese FM-90 Surface to Air Missiles systems supplied to it had developed multiple snags.

The report states that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in Chinese defence contracts, and increasingly a lot of countries have little or no faith in Chinese companies because of poor after-sales support and equipment that rapidly declines into non-functional machinery.

Developing countries like Bangladesh are forced to turn to the Chinese, who offer much more advantageous prices than Westerners.

For this reason, the Bangladesh Army acquired light weapons, artillery and armoured vehicles produced (mostly copied) by NORINCO.

Not just to Bangladesh, China has supplied defective equipment & weapons to many countries.

Complicated training procedures and poor contract evaluation results in ballooning costs for maintenance and spare parts.

The Chinese military equipment exports are facing issues like poor quality and lack of maintenance services.

Chinese arms are often cheaper than comparable products from other exporters, but after-sale service support is costly.

However, price and politics put together, often makes China a more appealing source for military equipment for most developing countries.

Here too the Chinese military equipment appears to be losing the edge.

The Bangladesh Navy has reportedly highlighted to China Vanguard Industry Co Limited, the increasing cost of defence items even as prices of defence items purchased from European and US Defence companies were reducing.

Since Bangladesh procured over 70% of its arms from China in 2014-2018, the latter is apprehensive about the Bangladesh Defence Forces’ dissatisfaction with the quality of supplies and its defence pricing.

Wary of Dhaka diversifying its defence supplies and acquiring quality defence items from India, Europe and the US, Beijing has tried to allay Bangladeshi defence concerns about the increase in price and low-quality defence items.

(With Reporting by International Media)