En Passant; Military expansion in Asia

En passant is in chess a special move when the pawn is at the third line of movement and passed by a pawn that moves two tiles forward. The defending pawn can hit the pawn in a diagonal behind the recent moved pawn.

Defense Spendng

Defense Spendng


Inspiration from the past
From 2007 until 2010 I used to travel from my hometown Akkrum, The Netherlands towards Rotterdam, and the Netherlands on a daily basis. Just in order to kill the three hours of time by train the one-way trip took me I used to read one of the in my eyes quality papers “NRC, de Volkskrant or De Pers.” The last of this three newspapers, which was a free newspaper unfortunately stopped to exit on 30 March 2012. Around 2010 or 2011 this newspaper published an article that fascinated me, it never left my mind, but now it falls into place into this gigantic puzzle that I am writing down. Unfortunately I didn’t save the newspaper, at that time I wasn’t aware that I would ever study politics or diplomatic. So I don’t have the correct sourcing that inspired me for this writing all I know is that the paper was written around 2010 and that the article involved that the military expansion in Asia holds some disquieting signs.

“Defence” Spending
The official term coined by countries and states for self-protection is “defence”. Almost all countries in the world have a ministry of defence or something similar that is at least devoted towards the defence of the country. Maybe Panama is one of the exceptions of the rule, with, what might be the smallest army in the world in relation towards GDP and population, however that’s a complete different story. The antonym of protection is war, however also this is coined by countries as “defence”. Two complete different worlds but a somewhat complex definition, but of course understandable you don’t want to let your neighbour know of course that you are considering to wage war against him.

Just to summarise it shortly defence spending are complicated to approach for countries and states, especially if you look to the neighbours or vice versa.

Economic prosperity vs. protectionism
Economic prosperity is highly correlated with protectionism, countries like to adapt their yearly defence budget in line with their economic growth or GDP. This is maybe also the smartest way for countries to create a stable economy that is well protected from the outside. A good example of a country that clearly failed in not doing so was the former Soviet Union. The country was spending too much in the arms-race it was fighting with the United States during the cold war. Keeping up with a competing countries “defence” budget by all necessary means can have a negative effect on the country on the long run and might destabilize a countries economy and thus the possibilities to defend itself.

Due to the fact that we always have the urge to look to China I would like not to go to deep into this countries military spending’s, however some background information on the countries military spending, and thus the reason why we look towards the country might be necessary here. One of my colleagues; Teun Oonk already analysed the company into depth on a military or “defence” basis compared with the military strengths of the United States, his blog here.

When we look to the picture on the bottom of this paragraph we can clearly see that China is doubling its defence budget over a period of five years’ time 2011-2015. This year (2014) China will increase its budget with another 12.2 percent towards 96 billion euro’s the biggest growth in the three previous years. A strong signal that China wants to continue its development as a military superpower. Most of this defence budget is invested in High-tech weapons, air force and navy 2.

Asia Defence Spending

Asia Defence Spending


When we look to the rest of Asia in the picture above, we can see that of the biggest military other powers only two countries have significant growth rates as well (significant at more than 5 percent). These two countries are not without a reason Taiwan (13.5 Billion dollar by 2015). The country and island has since 1949 always had a tense relation with China has an increase that is almost in line with that of China of ten percent. The second country that has a significant growth rate is notably India (44.9 Billion dollar by 2015) even though the grow of the countries defence budget is more in line with the country’s GDP growth it is remarkable that this country is in some way trying to balancing the power with China.

When we look to the rest of the biggest military powers of Asia and their defence budget, their rise is somewhat less significant and more in line with the GDP growth. Japans defence budget is expected to grow with 2.5 percent towards 66.6 billion dollar by 2015, South Koreas defence budget with 3.2 percent to 35.5 billion dollars and Australia even though it is not the Asian continent strongly affected to what happens in the region increases it military budget with 3.9 percent to 27.5 percent by 2015 as expected 4.

The ASEAN Community is on its way to build a strong economic community and houses ten countries out South-East Asia; Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand & Vietnam. The ASEAN community is striving forwards to establish the ASEAN community by 31 December 2015 on the three main pillars of Peace, Prosperity and People. The first and foremost important to protect the other two is peace 5.

Active Military Manpower ASEAN vs. China

Active Military Manpower ASEAN vs. China

So how is the ASEAN community doing to protect itself and its community? It might be clear that the ASEAN community is mainly looking towards its strategic interests and due to the fact that the countries are mainly surrounded by China on the one side and India one the other side as real threats, that the countries are mainly looking to China, however with India in mind. According to military experts and officials the ASEAN defence expenditures are among the fastest growing in the world, but they remain in line with national GDP growth. Army officials state; “this is not an arms race!” but is this true? The rhetoric goes that spending has mostly been about modernisation than expansion of military forces, but an increase of 185% for the ASEAN region has been seen during the 2002-2006 period 6.

Military expenditure ASEAN vs. China

Military expenditure ASEAN vs. China

Especially the countries of the ASEAN community whom are located in the South Chinese Sea are increasing their defence budget rapidly. Vietnam increased its defence budget for 2012 with 25 percent whilst the country’s GDP growth was only 5.2 percent, Malaysia’s budget in 2012 grew by almost ten percent, with an economic growth of 5.2 percent. The Philippines increased their military spending with 12.5 percent against a GDP growth of 6.8 percent. 7

However the real growth and military power in the region according to consultancy firm IHS Jane’s will be Indonesia. Their defence budget for 2012 was 8.1 billion us dollars and increase of 18 percent on an economic growth of only 6.2 percent. According to the same consultancy firm, Indonesia’s defence expenses will rise with 71 percent from 2012 to 2015. The defence budget of Indonesia already grew between 2002 and 2011 with 82 percent, being together with Vietnam the fastest growing country in defence budget.

Naval Capabilities ASEAN vs. China

Naval Capabilities ASEAN vs. China

Especially the countries located around the South Chinese Sea; Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are shifting away from ground weapons. The countries are mainly investing their money in frigates, vessels and Aircrafts. The message might be clear the naval competition in the South Chinese Sea might have just started. Even though the ASEAN mission is clearly stated to be finalised on 31 December 2015, we will see what happened after that time with the defence budgets of the country. It might be obvious that the spending patronages of the countries is clearly not in line with the Economic prosperity or the second pillar of the ASEAN community.

En Passant
You can see the en passant move as an arms race. The pawn represents a country and tries to keep up with the other pawn by taking a big jump forwards. The jump forward is damaging the economy so badly that the other country can take advantage over it, by just continuing what it used to do.

With the arms race that can be seen as a serious threat in Asia it is hard to come up with a solution; I will more elaborate on this in my last blog. What is certain that the bucket is slowly being filled by all the countries in the Asian region, the Vietnamese violence that is mainly focussed against Chinese people, the conflict zone of the South and East Chinese Sea, the Spratly Islands and so on. It will be only a matter of time before the bucket flows over and no solution seems to be at hand.

Whatever terminology we coin here defence budget or military budget it might be obvious that a military boom is certainly going on within the complete Asia community. Especially regarding the ASEAN community we see a huge growth that can be described as unhealthy but we might have to wait until 31 December 2015 if the countries are just getting in line on a healthier basis or if there is really an arms race going on. Let’s at least hope that peace will be the most important thought for every country regarding to defence budget. In my next and forelast blog I will write about the political leaders of the most important countries and their ideology of leading the country.

  1. http://demilitarize.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/defense-spending.jpg
  2. http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2014/03/05/china-schroeft-defensiebudget-opnieuw-fors-omhoog/
  3. http://infoseekchina.blogspot.com/2012/02/china-defence-budget-to-double-over-5.html
  4. http://infoseekchina.blogspot.com/2012/02/china-defence-budget-to-double-over-5.html
  5. http://www.bt.com.bn/frontpage/2013/10/06/must-speak-one-voice
  6. http://sea-globe.com/a-fistful-of-dollars/
  7. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG
  1. deze wapenwedloop gaat ten koste van de kwaliteit van leven, er zijn ook in azie nog zeer veel mensen die in diepe armoede leven. thea albada

    • Translation in English; This growing defence spendings, is at costs of the quality of life. Also in Asia there are still a lot of people living in poverty.

      Thanks for your reaction, it is indeed that this growing defence spendings costs countries a lot, that could be used to help the poverty, unfortantly countries don’t understand this due to the pressure that arises from both sides.

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