Sadly, the results for East Asia aren’t quite as exciting, or especially validating of my hypothesis. I should note that poorer countries like Mongolia and N. Korea didn’t have complete data so I had to limit my list of countries.


It is interesting to note that SIPRI’s list shows a dramatic climb in China’s military spending over the past 10 years, in 1999 they spent less than a 3rd what they do now. Using http://www.umsl.edu/services/govdocs/wofact99/5.htm I will show the change 11 years has brought East Asia:

Surprisingly, China’s relative economic growth has been minimal, changing just 5% relative to the rest of East Asia. The notable exception of Japan might cause you to wonder do these numbers really add up? They mostly do. The reason China hasn’t improve more is because its own growth has been matched economically by Taiwan and South Korea. But militarily, China now matches its economic might with the majority of all military spending in East Asia. My hypothesis could work, perhaps there was a threshold in individual income in China that passed in the last decade, while the government in Japan saw the national debt and increasing cost of an aging population as a bigger threat than military ones.

I think I’m probably wrong though; there are likely better explanations for relative military spending than GDP per capita alone. for instance, in 1996 the third taiwan strait crisis took place, possibly driving the government in Taipei to continue spending a large amount on its military. In 1998 South Korea began the so-called Sunshine Policy with North Korea, easing tensions in the region as a result. Finally, China itself has seen its direction of trade expand in the past decade; numerous shipping routes have become essential to its globalized economy. Perhaps the relative leap in China’s military spending is mostly an outcome of its increasing trade. In the US the war of 1812 is often hailed by historians as an early example of US economic policy shaping its military and foreign policy perhaps the three fold increase in military spending by China is similar.

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