The volume of Chinese arms increased 162 percent from 2003 to 2012, hiking its share of international arms exports from 2 percent to 5 percent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported.
The United States remains in the top spot, with 30 percent of global arms exports, the institute found. Russia was second with 26 percent.
Germany with 7 percent of the volume and France with 6 percent were ranked third and fourth, respectively.
China's rise in the rankings knocked the United Kingdom out of the top five.
The bulk of Chinese arms sales were to Pakistan, said Dr. Paul Holtom, director of SIPRI's arms transfer program.
"However, a number of recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient state," he added.
During the same period that China's arms exports were increasing, overall sales to European countries declined 20 percent, the report said. In the face of economic woes, many states in Europe have been offering to sell recently purchased military planes they can no longer afford to maintain.