Logics of Arms Deals: Multilevel Evidence from China-Zambia Relations

Image: Flickr, Alan Wilson
Image: Flickr, Alan Wilson

Why do developing countries want to expand their air force and why would Chinese arms suppliers be preferred?

This paper provides a multifaceted answer based on field interviews in Zambia as well as desk research, developing five different logics for burgeoning arms trade between developing countries and new arms suppliers in the international market. Military and bilateral relations history, current strategic concerns in defense and finance, domestic political economy, psychological quest for prestige, and systemic concerns are all essential factors. A uni-dimensional explanation would lead to skewed or even erroneous interpretations of the intentions of both arms buyers and arms sellers. This paper demonstrates that a comprehensive interpretation of a political phenomenon can and must cover multiple levels of analysis, ranging vertically from subnational dynamics to international dynamics, with agents at different levels interacting with each other (states, multilaterals, corporations, etc.).

1 May 2020