Conor Byrt

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2010

Capstone Advisor

Hongying Wang

Honors Reader

Terry Crawford-Browne

Capstone Major

International Relations

Capstone College

Citizenship and Public Affairs

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Asian Studies | International and Area Studies


The arms trade involves the international sale or importation of conventional arms. This means the proliferation of any non-nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Today the global transfer of arms is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. The US has the world’s largest military expenditure and is known as the world’s greatest proliferator of conventional weapons. China in the past few years has maintained a position as one of the world’s largest importers of arms, and has recently taken the spot as the world’s second largest military expenditure.

Data from watchdog organizations suggests that the world is currently in a period of militarization that is fast approaching, militarization levels during the Cold War. Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and Europe are all showing general patterns of increasing arms transfers. The reasoning behind the build up is difficult to say. Insecurity due to terrorism, scarce resources, wars in the Middle East, payment of bribes, or shifting foreign policies may all influence a nations decision to increase arms transfers.

Transfers of weapons between nations often give some insight into the overall relations between the two nations. China and the US have a history of uncertainty and distrust, and thus actual arms transfers and military agreements between these two nations are relatively uncommon. Nations that have long standing relationships tend to transfer arms on a more frequent basis. Therefore, by analyzing the global arms market one may better understand foreign relations.

The arms trade is a very lucrative business for the manufacturing companies. The US alone is home to nearly fifty of the worlds 100 most profitable arms companies. China does not have a single company in the world’s top 100, however China is still a major factor in the arms transfer arena (due to high importation of weapons). China’s combined surplus of foreign trade dollars and extensive production capabilities make China potentially one of the greatest proliferators of conventional weapons in the future.

The production of these weapons, while lucrative, is often destructive and counteractive to democracy. Unfortunately, the majority of arms deliveries are sent to developing nations that are more prone to human rights abuses and violations of international law. This disregard for human suffering demands international attention, but lack of transparency of this unethical trade has left many uniformed. In an attempt to increase transparency and knowledge about the arms trade, this paper provides some little known information about two of the world’s most influential participants.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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