Chinese companies, including one connected to the government in Beijing, have sent Russian entities 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment that could be used for military purposes, including drone parts and body armor, according to trade and customs data obtained by POLITICO.
The shipments took place between June and December 2022, according to the data provided by ImportGenius, a customs data aggregator.
China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, one of the country’s largest state-owned defense contractors, sent the rifles in June 2022 to a Russian company called Tekhkrim that also does business with the Russian state and military. The CQ-A rifles, modeled off of the M16 but tagged as “civilian hunting rifles” in the data, have been reported to be in use by paramilitary police in China and by armed forces from the Philippines to South Sudan and Paraguay.
Russian entities also received 12 shipments of drone parts by Chinese companies and over 12 tons of Chinese body armor, routed via Turkey, in late 2022, according to the data.
Although the customs data does not show that Beijing is selling a large amount of weapons to Moscow specifically to aid its war effort, it reveals that China is supplying Russian companies with previously unreported “dual-use” equipment — commercial items that could also be used on the battlefield in Ukraine.
It is the first confirmation that China is sending rifles and body armor to Russian companies, and shows that drones and drone parts are still being sent despite promises from at least one company that said it would suspend business in Russia and Ukraine to ensure its products did not aid the war effort.
The confirmation of these shipments comes as leaders in the U.S. and Europe warn Beijing against supporting Russia’s efforts in Ukraine. Western officials have said in recent weeks that China is considering sending weapons to Russia’s military, a move that could alter the nature of the fighting on the ground in Ukraine, tipping it in Russia’s favor. Officials are also concerned that some of the dual-use material could also be used by Russia to equip reinforcements being deployed to Ukraine at a time when Moscow is in desperate need of supplies.
Beijing continues to deny that it is ramping up support for Russia in Ukraine. However, several of its top officials have recently traveled to Moscow. President Xi Jinping is expected to make an appearance there in the coming weeks. China recently presented a 12-point peace proposal for the war in Ukraine, though it was criticized by western leaders for its ambiguity and for its lack of details about the need for the withdrawal of Russian troops.
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