Soldiers from Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Special Operations Forces march in formation during a training
session at the 60th National Day Parade Village on the outskirts of Beijing September 15, 2009 Photograph: Joe Chan / Reuters/REUTERS
Is the global arms trade recession-proof? Almost, it appears. Whilegovernment spending is being cut across the globe, military spending is staying remarkably steady.
The world's countries spent $1.7tn on their militaries last year, according to new figures published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). It's barely changed from the year before, masking decreases in the west countered by big increases in China, Russia and some Middle eastern countries. The key numbers show that:
Military spending interactive. Click image to explore it
• The US remains by far the biggest military spender, with a defence budget of $711bn last year
• It's followed by China, which spent an estimated $143bn on its armed forces in 2011. China has increased its military spending by 170% in real terms since 2002, the leading research body says
• Russia spent nearly $72bn on arms last year, overtaking Britain ($62.7bn) and France ($62.5bn). Russia is planning further increases, with draft budgets showing a 53% rise in real terms up to 2014
• India has increased military spending by 66% since 2002. While both internal conflicts and the long-running dispute with Pakistan remain key issues, India views China as a rival for regional power
• Vietnam has increased military spending by 82% since 2003, and has invested heavily in its navy in recent years, partly due to tensions with China in the South China Sea
Richard Norton-Taylor writes today that
China's increased military spending has caused concern among its neighbours and the US, the dominant Pacific power. The recent announcement of a US "pivot" towards Asia is in part the response to such concerns, Sipri says.
It adds: "China's extensive and growing trade relations with the countries in its neighbourhood have been marred by disputes – eg the border dispute with India, a dispute over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands with Japan, and contested maritime borders with several nations in the South China Sea – all of which have led to increased tensions."
However, the report says talk of an "arms race" in the region may be premature, as both data and analysis reveal a mixed pattern of trends in military expenditure and arms acquisition, with China far from being the only driving factor.
Sipri have given us the full historical dataset, going back to the late 1980s - you can download it below. What can you do with it?