Global militarisation has increased rapidly over the course of the 21st century, with a clear recalibration towards the Asia Pacific. Between 2000 and 2021, annual military spending increased from $1.12trn (in 2020 dollar terms) to $2.11trn. In that time, the share of global defence spending in Asia and Oceania increased from 18% to 28%, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Growing concerns over China, whose defence spending has increased steadily for nearly three decades, has fuelled an arms race across the region, upending decades-long regional conventions and revealing several potential flashpoints.
The biggest concern about China’s military expansion is how it ties in to plans to annex Taiwan. The risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is the highest it’s been in decades, but predictions of when it might happen vary. Recently a number of senior US military leaders have offered alarmingly imminent dates including 2023, 2025 and 2027. American assessments are crucial, given it’s possible the US military will help defend Taiwan against Chinese attacks, but some analysts caution that these military figures are likely exaggerating to lobby for more funding. Sources say the public predictions have frustrated Taiwan’s president, who is trying to ensure people are worried enough about the China threat that they support her policies, but not so much that they give up hope.
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