Spotlight on Geopolitics

In the ’50s, the fear of depression had prompted Americans to resort to military capitalism, leading to the creation of the military-industrial complex they are now downsizing. The lesson, however, was apparently lost in Asia : a MIC is relatively easy to set up, very expensive to run and exteremely difficult to dismantle.

With the recent nomination of the new Chinese prime minister, the Xi & Li political team is now firmly in control of China. One of the key announcements made on the same occasion was an increase of some 10 percent in China’s military budget. The new Japanese prime minister has also announced a rise in his country’s defence budget – the first in 11 years – of 0.8 percent, or some 450 million dollars. Nationalistic rhetoric has started inflaming spirits in both Peking and Tokyo, especially in the light of the Sino-Japanese confrontation over the ownership of the Senkaku islands in the South China Sea. Last year, on the other hand, President Vladimir Putin announced an increase of 50 billion dollars over 10 years in Russian military expenditure. All these developments are prompting some analysts to alert international public opinion as to the dangers of a new arms race.

In truth, the US presence in Afghanistan has given army brass in the ‘five stans’ the possibility to compare Russian military hardware with American-made, high-tech equivalents, to the detriment of the former. To protect its influence in Central Asia and its weapons export markets, Russia has no other choice but to invest in the upgrade of its largely obsolete military hardware.

The beefed-up Chinese and Japanese military budgets remain meager in comparison with the size of the US defence budget, even after the planned cuts in America. Confronted with sluggish growth rates due to the fallout of the global financial crisis, China and Japan seem to have rediscovered military capitalism, also known as military Keynesianism. As opportunities for civilian public investment in infrastructure (freeways, dams, very fast trains) are dwindling, investing in new military hardware and technologies could contribute to boosting economic growth.

Such decisions, however, made with purely domestic considerations in mind, could in time lead to a stepping-up of tensions in Asia and to an increase in the volume of weapons available for export on international markets, with all the well-known consequences likely to flow on from that.

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