Cadets applaud as U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addresses them at the PLA Engineering Academy of Armored Forces on Sept. 19 in Beijing, China. China led five Asian nations in defense spending increases between 2001-11, according to a new report. (Larry Downing / Getty Images, pool)
Overall defense spending in Asia might be up, but the increases are mostly due to large troop numbers and maintenance costs, not massive investment in cutting-edge research or equipment, according to a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The report, which analyzed official budget documents from China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from 2000-2011, found that all five countries had increased defense spending in constant dollars. China led the group, increasing total spending by 13.4 percent, followed by South Korea at 4.8 percent.
While spending increased throughout the decade, 2005 through 2011 saw the larger increases in four of the five countries.
However, despite the increases, spending per soldier, a significant measure of modernization, did not match the growth in overall spending, largely due to increased troop levels.
“While overall defense budgets of the five Asian countries are quite substantial, per-soldier defense spending is not (with the exception of Japan's),” the report said. “The underlying reason for this marked difference between total and per-soldier defense spending is the extensive force structures sustained by all countries but Japan in relation to the size of their overall defense budget.”
Japan was the exception to the spending trends, based largely on its heavy investment per-capita.
“While the other four countries spent between $28,200 and $43,600 per service member in 2011, Japan allocated $238,100 per soldier in the same year,” the report said.
Per-soldier spending levels can be used as a rough indicator of the capability of the forces, the report said.
“The significant gap in per soldier defense spending between China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan and the major European militaries and the United States suggests, at least to some extent, differences in the quality of military forces,” it said. “It remains to be seen if this issue will be addressed given the increase in Asian defense budgets.”