China has ousted the UK as the world’s fifth-largest arms exporter, mainly because of sales to Pakistan, according to a new report on global weapons sales.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on Monday said Chinese arms exports rose 162 per cent between 2008 to 2012, propelling China into the top five arms exporting countries for the first time since the cold war. This marks the first time that the UK has not been one of the top five conventional arms exporters since at least 1950, the earliest year covered by Sipri data.

Pakistan accounted for 55 per cent of Chinese arms exports between 2008 and 2012, according to Sipri. During that time, China’s share of global arms exports rose to 5 per cent from 2 per cent in the 2003-2007 period, boosting the country from eighth to fifth place in the global ranking.

“Military exports are one way for China to increase its international status,” said Li Hong, secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. “China needs to increase its influence in regional affairs and from that perspective it needs to increase weapons exports further.”

Chinese defence spending is now second only to US military outlays. At current growth rates, Chinese spending could catch up with the US – which accounts for more than 45 per cent of global military spending – by as early as 2025.

For now, however, Chinese exports lag behind other countries with much smaller populations and economies. The US share of global conventional arms exports is 30 per cent. Russia, meanwhile, accounts for 26 per cent, German exports constitute 7 per cent, and France accounts for 6 per cent.

The rapid expansion in Beijing’s military budget in recent years and a focus on technological advances have raised the sophistication and competitiveness of Chinese weapons. This allowed China to cut the volume of its weapons imports in half between 2008 and 2012, compared with the 2003-2007 period, when it was the world’s largest importer of conventional weapons.

In the 2008-2012 period, China ranked second behind India, with 69 per cent of all Chinese weapons imports originating in Russia. According to Sipri, India accounted for 12 per cent of all conventional arms imports between 2008 and 2012, which was more than double Chinese purchases of arms from overseas.