|South China Sea|
|Naval and Air Modernization|
|Introduction :: Timeline :: Airpower Projection :: Power Projection Comparison :: Sources|
|Power Projection Comparison|
The following charts and graphs aims to provide a comparison between the capabilities of the different naval and air forces in the South China Sea, as well as a comparison on their defense spending. Together with the Timeline as well as the Airpower Projection Map, these charts should provide an idea on the military capabilities and modernization trends of countries around the South China Sea. Please click on the links below to be redirected to each topic. Raw data for the charts may be downloaded here.
The data displayed below shows clearly that China, Taiwan and Singapore are the leading military powers in the region. However, though they may exert significant power, their military, both in terms of expenditures and absolute hardware, trails far behind that of the United States. Though the Timeline may show that countries are modernizing their military at a rapid pace, especially in terms of underwater and aerial warfare, statistics show that military expenditure, when compared to GDP, is comparable to that ten years ago.
Without a doubt China is indicated as having the largest military in the region, with Taiwan a distant second. The massive discrepancy in military strength indicates why China holds such a large say over events in the South China Sea. However, China's military pales in comparison to that of the United States. The ability of the United States to project military power in the region indicates that it may stay as a dominant force for a while. Upon breakdown of the military hardware, it can be seen that while all states possess some sort of coastal/patrol combatant, 50% of states in the South China Sea possess submarines. This number will increase with the delivery of Scorpene and Agosta class submarines for Malaysia in the next few years. It is also interesting to note that while frigates will be in the naval arsenal of all South China Sea states in the near future with the exception of Brunei and Cambodia (Singapore will commission LaFayette class frigates beginning in 2005), the only two South China Sea countries that possess heavier destroyers will remain China and Taiwan. Currently, no other country bordering the South China Sea have plans to procure destroyer-classed vessels. [back to top]
In 2003 the country with the largest navy / air force compared to its coastline is Singapore, with a ratio of 83.89. Singapore is also the country showing the largest increase in manpower / coastline ratio. This chart puts the data displayed in the naval and airforce comparison chart in perspective: Though China in the region has by far the largest amount of military hardware, it is Singapore which has a disproportionately large military compared to its territory. The graph does not display a consistent trend regarding manpower / coastline ratios in 1993 and 2003. This may be due to different military needs in each country: higher technology in some countries will reduce the amount of personnel necessary to operate military equipment, while countries may increase personnel to man newly acquired armaments. [back to top]
The graph does not show a significant difference in change in military expenditures as a percentage of GDP over the ten year period from 1993 - 2003. In fact, most countries display a lower military expenditure percentage in 2003 compared to 1993. With the exception of Singapore, all countries bordering the South China Sea have military expenditures as much lower than the United States. In particular, despite its massive defence spending and fears of potential military aggression, China's defence budget remains around the 2.3 percentage mark. The large absolute difference is likely due to the large increase of China's GDP. However, there have been reports that accuse China of under-reporting its military budget. [back to top]