The fact that China is actually a few steps away from supplying arms to the russian federation has been repeatedly stated at the highest level in the West. In particular, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that some signs of planning the weapons supply have already been recorded. And CIA director William Burns said that the leadership of China is considering the transfer of lethal weapons, noting that no decision has yet been made.
Beijing's decision either to transfer or not to transfer weapons to Moscow is purely political. And it is not limited by anything, except for warnings from the US about "serious consequences." China has huge resources of various weapons and military equipment, which is calculated for its own armed forces in the total number of two million, tens of millions of mobilization reserve, as well as a super-powerful military complex with entire lines of weapons exclusively for export.
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Objectively, there are several scenarios of how Beijing can provide russia with weapons, if it makes this conceptual decision at all. At worst, it will be about the sale of a whole range of samples that the Kremlin needs now: armored vehicles, artillery and missile systems, etc.
This scenario also means that such a transfer will be noticed immediately, and the West will then be forced to launch its repeatedly emphasized punitive sanctions mechanism without any delay.
In this case, ammunition takes first place. The situation with ammo in russia has gained a negative vector. In particular, rusty 40-year-old shells have been recently captured. An important factor in this is that the Soviet calibers for China’s armed forces are the standard, namely 82 mm and 120 mm mortars, 122 mm, 152 mm artillery, 125 mm tank ammunition, as well as 122 mm and 300 mm projectiles for MLRS.
In addition to ammunition, the resource of artillery systems in russia is also decreasing, and the question of where to get “rounds” for the Kremlin is also extremely important. At the same time, China in this sense is also the most convenient for russia, because China’s armed forces are armed with a large number of artillery systems that are direct copies of the Soviet ones. For example, the 122-mm howitzer PL-86, which is a copy of the Soviet D-30, as well as its modernization the PL-96.
Defense Express noted that in the warehouses of the Chinese army, according to Military Balance, there are several thousand 152-mm PL-66, which are a copy of the Soviet D-20.
In addition, due to the fact that these are copies of Soviet weapons, the issue of military units retraining disappears, as well as all issues with maintenance and repair compatibility of these systems.
And the transfer of such artillery systems will be much less noticeable than any self-propelled guns, the chassis of them differ from the Soviet ones. For example, it is much easier to distinguish the 122-mm PLZ-89 from the 2S1 Gvozdika, as well as where the PHL-81 is and where the BM-21 Grad.
A similar situation is observed among armored vehicles, where China did not follow the path of complete copying, but actively added its own. For example, even a copy of the Soviet BMP in China was modified, and it is pretty difficult to confuse the ZBD-86 with the BMP-2.
Talking about tanks, the difference is even greater: even the outdated ZTZ-88 is very different from what is in service with russia, not to mention more modern tanks, such as the ZTZ-96.
That is, the more complex the armaments become, the more obvious differences are, therefore the more obvious China's participation in the war gets. And if Beijing will try to hide its active assistance at first stages, it is possible to make an assumption that the China’s support might be limited to the transfer of copies of Soviet weapons and ammunition at first stages.
However, even the transfer of a significant amount of ammunition, from which the troops can vanish markings, is more than threatening. Not to mention the fact that China can allocate a certain part of ammunition production capacity exclusively to meet the needs of the russian federation with the marking.
And all this, once again, applies only to the scenario where Beijing starts supplying only the weapons that are critically needed for russia. Instead of starting the open sale of a whole range of samples of military equipment, starting from UAVs, ending with cruise and ballistic missiles.
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