New Delhi. Even as China and Russia spent heavily on defence, the US continued to top the list of countries with the highest defence budget totaling U.S.$649 billion while China spent US $250 million.
China, which is quelling pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule by flexing its military muscle in Tiananmen Square, the site of a bloody massacre where thousands were killed in 1989. The military parade was witnessed by past and present leaders.
The event highlighted the technological achievements of the Chinese Republic, with the military showcasing state-of-the-art tanks, artillery, and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. China has increased its military investment in the past decade, substituting outmoded Soviet-era equipment with indigenously developed alternatives.
The modernization push coincides with China’s emergence as the world’s shop floor, and the United States’ focus on fighting overseas wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But China’s rise has been unparalleled. According to data collated by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China had the highest increase in military spending for any country in the past decade, in keeping with its objective of turning the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a world-beating fighting unit by 2049.
Between 2009 and 2018, China bolstered its military spend by 83 percent, the results of which were manifest on the streets of Beijing during the parade. Saudi Arabia, which is a high spender on defence hardware for many years, raised its military spend by 28 per cent in the same period, marginally less than India’s 29 per cent.
Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has also adopted a militaristic approach to solving geopolitical issues, like the invasion of Crimea. This has been aided by 29 per cent rise in military spend since 2009. On the other hand, the US has reduced its budgetary outlay for defence, with total spend contracting by 17 per cent over the past decade.
However, over the past couple of years, U.S. President Donald Trump has committed to the modernization and expansion of the military to retain its head start over Beijing and Moscow. South Korea and Japan, which share a frosty relationship over World War II but are united by the common threat faced by a rogue North Korea, both upped defence spending.
In absolute terms, all countries cumulatively spent US$ 1.82 trillion on the defence sector, representing a 5.4 per cent increase since 2009. Among the top 15 countries with highest military budgets, the US accounts for 36 per cent of the overall spend, followed by China with 14 per cent. India, which spent US$ 66.5 billion on defence in 2018, accounts for 3.7 per cent of the cumulative expenditure of the top 15 countries.