Vice‘s Ryan Faith argues that one beneficiary of the emergent Russo-Ukrainian war will be China. The disruption of the Soviet-era military industries shared by Russia and Ukraine will leave China, inheritor of much Soviet technology, in a great position to expand its market share in the arms trade.
The once-mighty Soviet Union has fallen on hard times, and has fragmented into a motley collection of countries, enclaves, vassal states, and fiefdoms. As a result, the vast network of factories, technical expertise, and supply chains that once powered the Soviet military machine has disintegrated. Previously intertwined industries are now divorced, living in different countries. Entire supply chains vital to one national military are in countries completely out of the control of that military.
In some cases, old armament factories operated as if little had changed except for the drop in production volume. Russia was, until this year, the biggest single export market for Ukrainian defense manufacturers, just as Ukrainian imports were the single biggest share of Russian defense imports. For example, most of Russia’s helicopters are powered by engines made by the Ukrainian company Motor Sich. Conversely, the biggest use of Motor Sich’s engines has been in Russian helicopters.
But once fighting broke out between Ukraine and Russia — or more accurately, a few months after fighting broke out — the defense trade between the countries ground to a halt.
Although China has grown in technological sophistication, a lot of the old standards and technologies have left their mark. Much of the equipment and parts still in production are compatible with Soviet-era standards, and China has close relationships with the defense industries of both Russia and Ukraine. But the rupture between the two countries — the engines powering the remnants of the Soviet military-industrial machine — has, as Jane’s points out, put China in a very advantageous position.
First, Ukrainian and Russian manufacturers alike are eager to replace revenue lost from the end of their relationships with one another, and will be looking to sell to China instead. In fact, Ukrainian and Russian companies could find themselves in competition for business while their governments compete on the battlefield and in the international political arena. This competition means it’s a buyer’s market for China, and may give Beijing access to a lot more technology and design expertise at lower cost than was previously possible.