Why doesn’t anyone buy modern Chinese fighter jets?

First of all, it is not true. In fact, they even have a model exclusively for export, which is already used by the Pakistani (it is a co-development with Pakistan), Burmese and Nigerian air forces and there are several more interested:

But it is true that until now they exported fewer combat aircraft than the “great leaders of the world arms market”: the US and Russia. This is because buying fighter planes is not like buying rifles, for example, which then more or less anyone can keep. It makes you a kind of strategic partner of the supplier, whether you like it or not, and until now most countries preferred to be a strategic partner of the US or Russia due to the legacy of the previous Cold War.

Now, however, with Russia hyper-sanctioned by the West, we are very likely to see a huge increase in Chinese sales of sophisticated weapons, including fighter jets. In fact, it is even possible that Russia will take advantage of it to place its own components “rebranded” or “remanufactured” as Chinese. Obviously not everyone is going to want to be a US puppet; whoever does not want to be a US puppet —or is opposed to the US or its puppets— buys Russian and if that gets too complicated now, they will buy Chinese.

Add to that the fact that up to now China has been more interested in creating its own advanced military force – they came from very low – than in exporting it and you have almost the complete reasoning. Same reason why until last year they did not export their own-design nuclear reactors, despite being comparatively cheap, reliable and safe: they needed all the energy they could generate, at whatever cost.

The rest are details.

A JF-17 Thunder of the Nigerian Air Force, already in use against Boko Haram terrorists and other Islamist groups. The “airplane concept” is roughly analogous to that of the F-16 block 50/52+, or higher as they update it, with version 3 possibly similar to block 70/72.

It has been suggested that the new Shenyang FC-31, which is currently in its 2nd flight prototype, may be designed as a 5th generation semi-stealth aircraft for export, especially as a cheap and “non-American” alternative to the F-35. For themselves, the Chinese prefer to continue betting heavily on the J-20 (already in series production) and its future evolutions.