This Bystander takes four highlights away from the latest edition of The Military Balance, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS), annual global defense spending review (summary here).
- ‘The global redistribution of military power now underway’ as a result of contracting defense budgets in developed nations and expanding ones in developing nations, means that Western arms manufacturers are facing strong and growing competition from non-Western defense industries, such as China’s, in markets for basic military equipment.
- The attention to the build-up of Beijing’s aircraft-carrier and submarine fleets is misplaced. The IISS reckons that the PLA-Navy’s “new landing platform docks and its deployment of more effective anti-ship missiles hold greater strategic significance”. Similarly with the attention being paid to the PLA Air Force’s J-20 ‘stealth’ fighter. That may be an indication that China “is gradually closing the gap between itself and the West”, but it is the addition of Sukhoi Su30 multirole fighters, in-flight refueling tankers and AWACS aircraft that is “significantly strengthening China’s air capability”.
- Beijing’s unremitting modernization of its military forces, which includes the development of anti-satellite and cyber-war capabilities, means that “that the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait is gradually changing in favor of the PLA.”
- China’s increasingly assertive naval presence in the East and South China Seas has prompted a build-up of the defense capabilities of Japan and its Southeast Asian neighbors, while anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean and funding of port construction in Pakistan and Sri Lanka have provided a justification for India’s own naval expansion plans.