China is determined to match its aggressive military talk in South-East Asia with spending. A report by the Lowy Institute in Australia shows in 2021 it achieved just that as other reports indicate Beijing is looking to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny Central African country of Equatorial Guinea.
According to the latest Asia Power Index, China’s military financial outlay is now 50 per cent larger than India, Japan, Taiwan, and all 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) combined.
The annual report by the Lowy Institute noted in 2021, the U.S. remained the most powerful country in the Asia-Pacific region, with China coming in second place, after steadily growing influence on the Index in recent years.
“The pandemic has really affected most countries in terms of their ability to shape and respond to their external environment, but the United States has actually gained in its comprehensive power for the first time since 2018,” Hervé Lemahieu, the Lowy Institute’s director of research, told the ABC.
“China will never be as dominant as the United States once was, but we are really set for a sort of bi-polar century in the Indo-Pacific … more reliant on the whims of both the United States and China,” he said.
The details on China’s boosted defense spending come as classified American intelligence reports suggest China intends to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny Central African country of Equatorial Guinea, according to U.S. officials.
The Wall Street Journal reports this would enable China’s warships to rearm and refit opposite the U.S. East Coast and its busy shipping lanes.
Chinese military spending elsewhere is now far ahead of regional rivals and all 10 members of ASEAN and still growing, leaping as recently as 2020, as Breitbart News reported.
China “remains far in front of basically everyone else in the region” in terms of overall power, the report detailed.
At the same time Indonesia edged into the Index’s top 10 for the first time despite being hard-hit by the pandemic at home, outranking Singapore as the “most diplomatically influential player” in South-East Asia.
Japan is a “smart power” which wields significant diplomatic, economic and cultural influence with limited resources, the Lowy report said, however its influence declined in 2021 due to a declining economy and ageing population.
In a report released last month, Director of the ANU Australia-Japan Research Centre Shiro Armstrong argued Australia needs to boost its “already strong” ties with Japan, particularly through cooperation on energy to address climate change.
“Japan is Australia’s benchmark relationship in Asia,” Associate Professor Armstrong said.
“It is the world’s third-largest economy, Australia’s second-largest source of investment and until a fall in commodity trade in 2020, was Australia’s second-largest trading partner.
“But the Japan relationship must be re-imagined if it is to cope with major challenges that both countries [face] both at home and abroad if it is to survive and thrive in the 21st century,” Dr Armstrong said.