04 September 2017
Chinese arms deals with South-east Asian nations have been making the headlines recently. Last month, it was reported that China had offered Malaysia rocket launchers and a radar system – a claim which Putrajaya subsequently denied. And earlier this year, Thailand confirmed that it had bought three made-in-China submarines after having not operated such a platform since the 1950s.
Experts say that political, rather than actual military necessity, are largely behind these deals.
Defence analyst Bernard Loo told TODAY that the need to keep up with the Jones, or in other words, prestige, would be one key consideration behind the recent transfer of Chinese arms to South-east Asia. He said their relatively lower cost make them attractive to potential buyers.
“Chinese weapon systems are cheap and yet look good,” said Associate Professor Loo, who is with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).
As traditional state-on-state conflict in South-east Asia is unlikely, the acquisition of big-ticket combat platforms such as tanks and combat aircraft is “less about protecting the state against putative state adversaries and more about looking the part”, Prof Loo noted.
“As such, whether or not Chinese combat systems are any good or otherwise is therefore almost irrelevant.”
In the light of an increasingly influential Beijing, the desire of the purchasing nation to foster good ties with China may also explain the recent arms deals in the region, said defence analyst Richard Bitzinger of RSIS.
IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 04/09/2017