LONDON -- China now boasts the world's second-largest arms industry, figures compiled by a Swedish institute show, surpassing Russia and trailing only the U.S.
Four of the Asian nation's defense contractors sold an estimated $54.1 billion in arms and military services in 2017, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report out Monday.
A lack of data had kept the think tank from attempting to quantify Chinese sales until now.
China's military-industrial complex grew alongside its economy, with top Chinese defense contractors emerging as major global players.
"These new estimates are most likely still an underestimate," it said in a news release. "A lack of transparency in the arms sales figures of Chinese arms companies continues to hinder a complete understanding of China's arms industry."
Aviation Industry Corp. of China generated $20.1 billion in sales in 2017, ranking sixth in the world. The figure was nearly half that of the global leader, U.S.-based Lockheed Martin.
China North Industries Group, reportedly the world's biggest producer of armored vehicles, artillery and air defense systems, came in eighth.