War profiteer profile: Norinco

A VT-4 battle tank on display at an arms fair.
A VT-4 battle tank on display at the IDEX arms fair. Photo: Mztourist, CC4.0

Norinco (formerly the China North Industries Corporation) is China’s biggest arms company, and ranks 7th on SIPRI’s list of the world’s 100 biggest arms companies. Found in 1980, Norinco manufactures a wide range of military hardware for the Chinese military, and for other armies and police forces around the world. Norinco is 100% owned by the Chinese state.

As an indication of the size of the company, Norinco reported revenue in 2023 of over US$82 billion, and employs 216,300 people. In 2017 it was estimated that 27% of Norinco’s income came from arms sales.

Norinco produce a huge range of different weapons and equipment used by military and security forces: rifles, pistols, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, machine guns, mortar systems, tanks, armoured vehicles, and a wide range of weapons and equipment designed for crowd-control and riot policing. As well as manufacturing arms products, Norinco also has interests in resource extraction, construction, chemical engineering, import and export, and opto-electronics. A research paper produced by SIPRI in 2023 highlighted the fact that the company’s opto-electronics have military applications as well as civilian.

Transparency International have rated Norinco as “very low” in its assessment of their commitment to transparency.


Norinco has also focused on the production of battle tanks for export, with the Thai military recently acquiring the VT-4 battle tank manufactured specifically for export. Military equipment designed by Norinco is also manufactured under license around the world: Iraq has recently started to manufacture VN22 armoured vehicles.

In 2023 it was reported the company’s products were being used by the Russian military in Ukraine, including rifles, body armour and drone parts.

Policing equipment

Equipment, vehicles and weapons manufactured by Norinco are used by police forces across the world. For example, there is evidence of extensive use of vehicles manufactured by Norinco in Venezuela, including VN-4 armoured personnel carriers, water cannon, and “murciélagos” – vehicles with large mobile barriers attached, allowing police forces to block and control the movement of crowds.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, tear gas manufactured by Norinco has been identified in Hong Kong, where huge volumes of tear gas were used against pro-democracy demonstrators in 2019-2020. Norinco’s NF01 and NF-11 CS tear gas grenades have also been used by Iraqi police against protesters.

NARG 38 grenade launchers have also been identified being used by police officers against protesters all over the world. There is evidence of these single-shot weapons being used against protesters in Iraq, Kenya, Cambodia, India, Guinea, Serbia, Georgia, and Vietnam.

Cambodian police officers have been photographed armed with QB97 rifles (an export variant of Norinco’s QB95 rifle), and the same rifle is understood to be used by military and police bodies across Asia and Africa.


In 2015, Amnesty International published a report claiming that Norinco was among a number of Chinese and Canadian companies to profit from serious human rights abuses and illegal activity around the Monywa copper mine complex in Myanmar. In 2010 a subsidiary of Norinco entered into a partnership with UMHEL, a company owned by the Myanmar military, to operate the Sabetaung and Kyisintaung (S&K) and the Letpadaung copper mines. Amnesty argued that the company’s operations could lead to thousands of people being evicted from their land as the mining operation expanded, and that communities that oppose expanding mines have been targeted with harassment and arrests.

Programmes & Projects
Police militarisation theme

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