China’s recent explosion in defense spending has caused a regional response from other powers– Asia’s top players have doubled their defense spending in the past decade, creating a regional arms race that isn’t helping geopolitical tensions.
Although there hasn’t been a significant increase in human capital, defense spending has skyrocketed nonetheless, according to a new report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
The top powers analyzed by the study include China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and India. These five account for nearly 90% of all defense spending in the region. In the latter half of this decade, China’s proportional share of the defense spending within this group doubled– in 2000, the country accounted for only 20% of the total spending, but in 2011, that share reached 40%.
While China’s official defense spending in 2011 sits at $89.9 billion USD, experts believe that number is likely an underestimation and the true figure is much higher. Despite that possibility, the United States still dwarfs the world’s next-closest defense spender, spending $670 billion this year on defense. Regardless of the distance between China and the U.S., China’s annual spending has increased at a rate of 13.6 percent.
China’s rapid growth in defense spending has spurred other countries to keep up, creating a viral domino effect of militarization: As a major power ratchets up the spending, their primary competitors do so also. But each competitor has its own competitors, who in turn increase their own spending– not necessarily to compete with China, but to compete with China’s competitors.
Although his is no cold-war arms race, it is concerning in a region that is rife with maritime border disputes, key shipping lanes and lots of oil. Tension and militarization are harbingers of instability, and the still-dominant military force in the region, the United States, is making a serious effort to “pivot” to the region. It remains to be seen what this recent movement in the region brings. But whatever may happen in the future, the Asia-Pacific region is sure to become a focal point for those interested in global security for the indefinite future.