As tensions in the international community continue to rise, China has shown its intention to become an increasingly significant part of the current discourse surrounding the Middle East and Southeast Asia. This year, China will increase its military budget by 11.2% or $106.4 billion over concerns of future conflicts. Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress stated that this increase is merely a reasonable response to concerns over its global economic interests.
One such concern is the Taiwan Straits. According to Bloomberg, “a Pentagon report published last year stated that as of December, 2010, China’s People’s Liberation Army had deployed between 1,000 and 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles to units opposite Taiwan.” This poses an unlikely, but significant threat to Australia’s economic interests in the region. Economically, Taiwan is Australia’s 10th largest merchandise trading partner and 4th largest agricultural trading partner, and both of those markets have substantially increased in value over the last decade. Politically, although Australia recognizes Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan represents an economic and cultural ally in a hostile Asian region.
Australia’s defense strategy should respond to the growing threat posed by China in Southeast Asia — especially as China’s defense spending has increased an average of 16.2% a year from 1999 to 2008, while the United States has cut its military budget despite increased threats from Iran, China, and Russia. According to the Heritage Foundation, due to projected budget cuts, American missile defense systems will no longer provide the necessary coverage for its allies. Therefore, Australia may consider developing a new missile defense strategy using an Aegis ballistic system to protect its interests in Southeast Asia and the homeland. This could serve as a strategic balance to the growth of China’s military in the region.
Co-Authored with Drew Dillingham
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons