China is reportedly negotiating major arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as both countries look to become less reliant on the US and Russia for their defence needs.
According to South China Morning Post, which cited the geopolitical and intelligence website Tactical Report, Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI) is currently in talks with China’s state-owned North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) to acquire a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, and air defence systems.
Among the weapons included in the potential deal are the Sky Saker FX80 drone, the CR500 vertical take-off drone, the Cruise Dragon 5 and 10 “suicide drones” and the HQ-17AE short-range air defence (SHORAD) system.
The discussions have apparently “reached an advanced stage”, and have been ongoing for about a year, said Tactical Report. It quoted an unnamed source close to the deal, adding that it is speculated that it will be settled in Chinese currency, the yuan.
Egypt is said be in separate talks with Beijing to acquire the Chengdu J-10C multirole fighter jet, also known as the Vigorous Dragon. It is the most advanced J-10 variant and is powered by an indigenous engine.
To further negotiations started late last year, a delegation from the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) is expected to meet representatives from the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group on the side-lines of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia this week.
A report last year by Middle East Eye (MEE) noted that China is “emerging as the secondary arms supplier of choice for many Middle East countries.”
In making this move, Middle East clients can reduce their political dependence on Washington and the EU by purchasing inexpensive, yet effective Chinese arms. Russia’s preoccupation with the war in Ukraine has also “allowed China to fill an arms vacuum globally, not just in the Middle East,” added MEE.