Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Defense Budgets

Sharon Tiezzi, an editor at The Diplomat, has a very interesting post today discussing the defense budgets recently submitted by China and the United States:

The defense budgets released by Beijing and Washington share few similarities, but they do have one thing in common: spokespeople claiming that their increased military spending is good for “global security” or “world peace.” On a global level, and more particularly on a regional one, both the U.S. and China are convinced that security can be achieved through an increased military presence.

China believes that the U.S. is pursuing a policy of containment, egging on its friends and allies in the region to challenge China over territorial disputes. Many top-level academics in China worry that U.S. support for Japan and the Philippines in particular has encouraged these two nations to directly challenge China, thus worsening the security environment. Accordingly, China is forced to build up its military to defend its claims, and also to discourage provocation by its neighbors.

The U.S., however, thinks recent actions by Japan and the Philippines are a natural response to what is viewed as increased Chinese aggression. Under this line of thinking, a more robust U.S. military presence in the region is taken as a positive contributor to regional security, because it would reassure countries that are increasingly nervous about China’s strength.

It’s a classic question of the chicken vs the egg: which came first, China’s aggression or U.S. containment?

Regardless of who is blamed for starting the cycle, it’s hard to deny that China and the U.S. are locked into a low-key (for now) arms race, where military spending by one side is used to justify defense budget increases by the other. But already, given the divergent trends in spending, some in the region are wondering how long the U.S. will be willing or able to match China’s investment in a regional military presence. Though the announced Chinese military budget is less than 27 percent of the U.S. budget, it’s safe to assume that close to 100 percent of China’s budget will be focused on upping Chinese readiness in the Asia-Pacific region. With a variety of global security concerns, the U.S. cannot make the same claim.
Read it all here.   The final point is worth making by analysists who like to compare the U.S. defense budget to that of other countries--China's military spending is single-mindedly focused on power profection in one part of the world.  The U.S defense budget reflects a far more global perspective.

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