The Western arms embargo against China (because of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre) continues to provide evidence of being more evaded than complied with. Major military exporters like France and Germany are leading the way. European firms are particularly eager to drop the embargo and some, like France, are basically ignoring it. This is done most frequently by disregarding the installation of dual-use Western equipment in Chinese weapons systems. Two of the most blatant examples are the use of French Arriel 2C engines (built under license in China) for the Z-9WE helicopter gunship and China being able to purchase over fifty German maritime (for ships) diesel engines and install them in new Chinese subs (that are based on the Russian Kilo, which uses less capable and reliable Russian diesels). Unlike the French, the Germans make an effort to prevent dual use equipment from being exported. But once this stuff is in China the Chinese can, and often do, whatever they want and often they want to modify well engineered Western equipment (like maritime diesels) to suit their military needs. The Chinese had noted that the Russian maritime diesels were not nearly as quiet and reliable as the German ones from MTU. While the Chinese received MTU maritime diesels meant for commercial ships, not subs, the MTU diesels were much better quality and easily modified to work in China’s new subs.
China's Z-9WE helicopter gunship is a much better performer with the Arriel 2C engine, which is only supposed to be used for Chinese civilian helicopters, and has been used for over 300 of them. Earlier models of the Z-9 used Chinese designed and built WZ8A engines and these were not satisfactory. So now China is advertising the use of Arriel 2C engines in its Z-9WE combat helicopters.
This illegal use of Western engines in Chinese military helicopters is not new. Back in 2007 China installed Canadian PT6C-67C engines in its Z-10 helicopter gunship. China shrugs off foreign protests at this, and, partly because of this, European military equipment manufacturers are pushing for a lifting of the embargo.
It’s not just French engines that violate the embargo. The Z-9 is a license built version of the French AS 365N Dauphin. It's a four ton chopper with a two ton payload. China has built over 200 of the Z-9s and many have been armed (with twin 23mm cannon, torpedoes, anti-tank missiles and air-to-air missiles.) The Z-9WE is the export version which is modified to more easily accept Western electronics and weapons. China has exported the Z-9WE to at least four other African nations.
In the last decade China has been able to buy over $4 billion worth of military equipment from European suppliers. This is only about three percent (by value) of European exports to China. Many of the weapons or dual-use exports are difficult to spot unless you know what you are looking for, or are able to take Chinese aircraft, warships and armored vehicles apart. That’s because some of the tech is just a computer file of technical specs and data for computer controlled machine tools to create precision parts for things like engines or weapons. Now there are 3-D printers that make it even easier to create many other components from data found in a computer file that can be emailed. Small electronic and mechanical components also find their way to China, officially marked for use in non-military gear but later showing up in military systems. When queried about this the Chinese tend to ignore the question. If you are one of the world’s largest military and economic powers you can do that.