For the first time, in modern history at least, Asia’s military spending is poised to overtake Europe’s, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank in London. China is doubling its defence budget every five years and India has just announced a 17% rise in spending this year, to about $46 billion.
United States spends 711 billion on defense (4.7% of GDP, 41% of world total.) The US military spending does not include the operational spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Europe’s budgets are under pressure with the financial crisis. Asian economies continue to perform relatively better.
Europe still has superior actual military capabilities than Asia. Europe has had more spending than Asia for decades. Europe has more military gear and facilities that have been developed and purchased over decades. Europe has more trained personnel and those people have more actual combat experience.
In spite of having less than half of the annual military budget of China, the UK can project military power around the world while China only has semi-competent regional capabilities.
China’s defence industry may be improving but it remains scattered, inefficient and over-dependent on high-tech imports from Russia, which is happy to sell the same stuff to China’s local rivals, India and Vietnam. The PLA also has little recent combat experience. The last time it fought a real enemy was in the war against Vietnam in 1979, when it got a bloody nose. In contrast, a decade of conflict has honed American forces to a new pitch of professionalism. There must be some doubt that the PLA could put into practice the complex joint operations it is being increasingly called upon to perform.