Defence cuts in the West and increased defence spending in the East are creating a new era in global military capabilities, according to a major new report published by IISS (the International Institute for Strategic Studies) on 8 March 2011.
The IISS issues its Global Military Balance study every 12 months and it’s hotly-anticipated within the defence industry. This time, China – where defence spending got a 7.5 per cent boost in 2010 – was a major focus.
This spending, said the IISS, was well over that of most other nations – 1.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product went on defence technologies last year. As a proportion of GDP, it was comparatively low, but in terms of the actual amount - $76bn – it worked out significantly more than that of other nations (e.g., the UK – where $57bn was spent).
However, China’s concerns appear to be more regional than global, the report stressed.
Chinese Defence Growth
As announced at the start of March, China’s defence growth is set to increase yet more, with a 12.7 per cent budget boost for 2011. But, if it has ambitions of reaching parity with the West, there are some issues to overcome.
For example, China’s so large that there’s vast distances between regionalised arms groups and weapons producers. These sites, IISS added, frequently ‘possess outdated manufacturing and research attributes.’
Elsewhere, North Korea now has the fourth-biggest armed forces on Earth, behind China, the US and India. There are thought to be 24 million people living in North Korea and, of these, about five per cent are in military service.
North Korea’s range of military equipment is described in the report as a ‘substantial array’ and the fear of nuclear weapons proliferation remains at large: up to eight nuclear warheads could, on paper, be made from the country’s present levels of plutonium.
Global Military Balance
According to the Global Military Balance report, overall, ‘China remains a regional power with regional concerns, as demonstrated in 2010 by a series of exercises, construction projects and equipment purchases.’ Even so, the largest military powers are keeping a close eye on China, it added, as it starts ‘tentatively to explore operations further afield.’
“Western states' defense budgets are under pressure and their military procurement is constrained," John Chipman, the director general of the IISS, told news agency Reuters. “But in other regions - notably Asia and the Middle East - military spending and arms acquisitions are booming.
“There is persuasive evidence that a global redistribution of military power is under way.”
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