When you think of China, inexpensive and inferior goods might come to mind.
But that’s hardly the case with the Chinese body armor found on Iraqi insurgents.
It is superior to anything available to U.S. troops and resists penetration from M16s, M4s, M80s, M60s and M240 machine guns. In fact, say U.S. military sources, the only thing it won’t defeat is a direct shot from a .50 caliber.
The Chinese-supplied body armor also will resist multiple hits â€“ something the U.S. military-grade protective vests won’t do.
Analysis of the plates does reveal some manufacturing defects. Some tiles are misaligned. However, before those flaws can be exploited, they are likely to be fixed. The captured body armor is from 2006 or earlier.
In what could be a related development, the Iranians have made a knockoff of the Steyr HS50 .50-caliber “anti-material” rifle â€“ a .50 caliber sniper rifle. They are now being issued to Muqtada al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi army. The U.S. military is aware of at least three .50-caliber attacks since April, two on up-armored vehicles. In those cases, the shots penetrated the vehicle and armor â€“ the analysis pictures showed a gaping hole in the back of a Kevlar helmet.
It is not clear whether the weapon was produced in Iran or with the help of China or some other manufacturer.
Chinese military supplies are thought to be entering Iraq through Iran, with whom Beijing maintains good relations.
But, according to Bill Gertz’s book, “Treachery: How America’s Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies,” China long has provided at least some military support to al-Qaida and the Taliban, as well as Shiite militia forces.
“I uncovered intelligence information indicating that China supplied large amounts of weaponry to the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan,” wrote Gertz. “This was before the 9/11 attacks, and there were even some shipments after 9/11. Additionally, there were defector reports from Afghanistan, indicating that the Chinese were actually training some of the al-Qaida and Taliban people.”
Gertz goes on to point out what he views as the ongoing conflict between America’s business interests and its national security interests when it comes to China. He says the American people need to realize “that the problem of China is a long-term national security threat to the United States. It’s a nuclear-armed communist dictatorship that does not wish us well. In fact, it’s working against us.”
China’s history with Iran dates back many centuries, when major trade routes tied the two nations. But more recently, China signed a $100 billion deal with Iran to import 10 million tons of liquefied natural gas over a 25-year period in exchange for a Chinese stake of 50 percent in the development of the Yahavaran oil field in Iran. China is also exploring the feasibility of a direct pipeline to Iran via Kazakhstan.
Facing sanctions by banks in the U.S. and Europe, Iran is increasingly looking to banks in China, the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia to give it letters of credit, according to Israeli government officials.
Ironically, China has also become a major exporter to Iraq. China is now Iraq’s third-largest trade partner behind the USA and Turkey, according to Global Trade Information Services, a firm that tracks trade statistics. But it is not likely those military supplies are entering the country through normal commercial trade.