arms race in the Indo-Pacific

Beijing’s defense budget stands at $225 billion. Taiwan responds with an annual increase of 13.9%. Japan will double its investment in five years. Vietnam and Indonesia are not sitting idly by. India, a danger to China. Australia about to buy nuclear submarines from Washington.

Beijing () – There is an arms race in the Indo-Pacific. The growing geopolitical confrontation between China and the United States, together with the example of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are pushing the governments of the macro-region to increase military spending, which has become a vicious circle.

At the opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress on March 5, outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced that his country’s military spending will grow by 7.2 percent this year to about $225 billion. dollars: a slight increase compared to last year (+7.1%). This figure is almost four times less than that of the United States, despite the fact that experts have long argued that the real budget of the Chinese Armed Forces is higher than the official one.

Beijing justifies the growth of military budgets with the need to respond to outside attempts to “smother and contain” China: a subtle attack on Washington, which is hell-bent on slowing China’s rise. Li spoke of the growing threats to national security, especially in relation to Taiwan, which the communist government considers a “rogue province.”

As for its own defense, Taipei has allocated more than $13 billion to its military budget for 2023, an increase of 13.9% over last year. A significant part will go to purchase weapons from the United States, which is bound by treaty to support the defense of the island. In September, the Biden administration approved the sale of a $1.1 billion weapons package; Washington approved another of 619 million in early March.

China faces other pressing issues on its borders, such as its dispute with Japan over sovereign rights in the East China Sea; for the United States, Tokyo is also a resource for the protection of Taiwan.

The Japanese will endow themselves with the ability to counterattack enemy bases in an emergency through a significant increase in the defense budget. The plan of the Kishida Executive is to double military spending to 2% of GDP in five years, with a total of 315,000 million dollars. Of that, $5 trillion will go to buy missiles capable of being launched from a safe distance and Tomahawk cruise rockets from the United States.

Vietnam and Indonesia, with whom China maintains territorial conflicts in the South China Sea, are not sitting idly by either. Hanoi will spend $6.3 billion on its military buildup in 2023, with an increase of up to $8 billion expected in the coming years. For its part, Jakarta’s defense budget will reach $13.6 billion this year, $3.2 billion more than in 2022.

These figures are a long way from those reported by Beijing, but they mark a trend that only the Philippines seems to be staying out of at the moment, despite the fact that Manila also opposes Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea.

In numerical and “size” terms, China’s biggest concern should be India, a country with which it has had border disputes for decades along the Himalayan arc. For the 2023-2024 fiscal year, the Modi government proposed a 13% annual increase in military spending, amounting to $72.6 billion.

Delhi is part of the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), a strategic dialogue forum considered by Xi Jinping as the embryo of an “Asian NATO”, in which the United States, Japan and Australia also participate. As reported Reuters, Canberra is in the process of purchasing five Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines from the US. The purchase is part of the Aukus Agreement, the military pact between the US, Australia and the UK in an anti-Chinese key.



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