What Arms Race? Why Asia Isn’t Europe 1913
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What Arms Race? Why Asia Isn’t Europe 1913


Arms races, naval or otherwise, get a bad rap. They are usually regarded as the military expression and consequence of the existing state of international relations, but they can also develop a momentum of their own, wasting money, exacerbating already tense relations between states and threatening to destabilize whole regions. Instead of reflecting policy as Clausewitz reminds us the military should do, arms racers determine it.  All too often, moreover, they seem to make conflict more likely.

In the Asia-Pacific region many media outlets and pundits fear that a naval arms race is indeed developing and lament its possible consequences. It is not hard to see why— Whether it is Malaysia’s Scorpene submarines, Vietnam’s Kilos, India’s unprecedented naval building program or China’s new carrier the Liaoning and its carrier-killing ballistic missiles, naval modernization across the region is producing, if not always an overall increase in numbers, then at least substantially more impressive offensive and defensive naval capabilities.

And all of this is coinciding with, or even produced by, rising maritime tensions in the East and South China Seas. There are more narrowly focused tensions too, with analysts especially debating the dismayingly competition between China’s “counter-intervention” strategies and capabilities, and the U.S.Air-Sea Battle construct. Vietnam’s Kilos can also be seen as a more modest version of an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategy. These examples all suggest a worsening competition between “offensive” and “defensive”capabilities.

But is all this really developing into a naval arms race similar in style (and potentially effect) to the Dreadnought race that took place between Britain and Germany before the First World War – and even if it is, how serious might its consequences in the Asia-Pacific Region actually be? 

While the answer to this question partly depends partly on how one defines a naval arms race, there are some major differences between pre-war Europe and the situation now. Most obviously—and with some exceptions like China, Singapore, and India— Asian countries today are devoting a far smaller proportion of their national treasure to defense than did Britain, Germany and the other countries of pre-war Europe. In general, naval armaments are making much slower technical advances than was the case a century ago, with acquisition programs around the area being more incremental, deliberate, and less determined by transformational technology. It is hard to think of a modern equivalent, for example, of HMS Invincible, brand spanking new and revolutionary when commissioned in 1909 but obsolescent when sunk at the Battle of Jutland seven years later in 1916.

Compared to then, technological transformation now is much steadier, and the importance of maintaining an edge over rivals more debatable, given the rise of asymmetric technological/political/legal alternatives and strategies. Crucially, few national leaders, diplomats, or even sailors talk in arms race terms, and they certainly do not justify their efforts by the need to “get ahead.” On the contrary policymakers make every effort to avoid publically naming possible adversaries that they need to build against.

April 1, 2013 at 05:26

China is a coward nation and they have nothing other than tonnes of cheap and scrap technology..lol

March 1, 2013 at 15:15

Whilst I found the contents of the article very interesting the scary part was actually reading the comments posted after it.  The narrow minded, illinformed, jingoistic, nationalist sentiments expressed on both sides reveal the true and sad nature of humanity. Confirming that we (humans) are very much only just out of the trees and have a very very long way to go before we can call ourselves civilised.

February 25, 2013 at 00:57

This is the quote from the link you have provided:

"Thus, by pure diplomacy and only a few thousand troops, the Russians took advantage of Chinese weakness and the strength of the other European powers to annex 350,000 square miles (910,000 km2) of Chinese territory. With the exception of Muravyov's rather ceremonial cannonade at Aigun, they had apparently not fired a single shot."

I failed to find any evidence about " chinese slaughtered like sheeps"

[...] http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/15/what-arms-race-why-asia-isnt-europe-1913/ [...]

February 23, 2013 at 03:51

Its called cowardice. The Russians know it. The whole world knows it. The Chinese know it and called "reasonable cowardice with Chinese characteristics".

February 23, 2013 at 00:20

@Be Way,

Wait a minute. You are from an ASEAN country? Are you sure you are not a mainland Chinese disguised as one of South East Asians seen all over places tirelessly repeating the CCP’s lines? What a crook! For ASEAN as a whole, no one trusts the big bad bully China except for the dictator Hunsen (ironically, he sold his country to the butchers in Beijing. Sadly, history is repeating in Cambodia). As matter of fact, ASEAN should be thankful of the Vietnamese because hadn’t them standing on China’s way on the southward march, then the entire ASEAN swallowed by the ever hungry China now. And by the way, what is wrong for the Vietnamese resisting the big bad bully China's expansionists?

LOL. What I should call you now, Be Way? A SEA guy, willingly sell his soul and body for those little emperors in Beijing, hoping from article to article commenting tirelessly just for 50 cents per post (maybe more). I am a quiet guy and you made me talkative.

Be Way
February 22, 2013 at 20:59

It's not a question of calm or not calm to our debate. It's a question of whether Vietnam can remain calm or not just after being peaceful for a few decades since the last disastrous Vietnam War. As far as we in ASEAN are concerned, we don't give a damn about your continuous historical rivalry with China but we are just concerned whether Vietnam belligerent behavior will lead towards another unnecessary bloodshed war with China or not, that will directly affect everyone of us in ASEAN.

February 22, 2013 at 16:45

@ vic


Sure, question of timing. Such as the Russians shot to death not one, not two, but several chinese poachers a few months ago, right? Funny how chinese media (print or internet) and chinese (in china or oversea) would not dare to say a word, not one. What is the matter? No chanting of "teach them a lesson" or "historic evidences" or "nuke them" or all the usual big empty threat and talk from china and chinese? 


Full of shame and humiliation all over again. So much for "china as the next Godfather". How sad and pathetic. Perfect example of china and chinese characteristics.


For those that are not familiar about Russia took all the land and slaughtered chinese like sheeps, read this: (moderators, these are not spam)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Aigun  (Russia took over 600 thousands square kilometers of land from china, not just 400 as another poster said)






February 22, 2013 at 10:08

China might have big number of guns, modern ships and millions of soldiers but NO fighting skills. I repeat NO FIGHTING SKILLS and most importantly NO FIGHTING SPIRIT, even it comes to defending their own country. Please tell readers here when China won any major wars either against big or small countries? If I were you, probably I would not brag like that.

February 22, 2013 at 09:39

It's all a question of timing.  The Russians know it, and the Chinese know it.

Kim's Uncle
February 22, 2013 at 05:10

Well China loss over 400,000 sq km of outer Manchuria but still don’t dare to ask the Russians to return them? This just proves how weak they are! A lot of talk but nothing to show for it!

February 22, 2013 at 00:26

@Be Way,

Calm down, boy. I started to see you lose your cool and you ruined your own debate by “I-don’t give a damn thing”. Anyway, I proved my point is that China is never a peaceful country throughout its history, at least to the Vietnamese, unlike you falsely claimed. Have nothing more to say to you.

February 22, 2013 at 00:06

@ be way said "Vietnam should go back to China".


Sure, right after china goes back to Japan (rapes of nanjing) , Britain (Opium Wars), Machuria, and Mongolia.


As another poster said above, china repeatly tried and tried to swallow little Vietnam for the last few thousands years, got slaughtered and still mad about it.


Let check the history, shall we? Funny how you and other chinese posters would not brag about these facts. What is the matter? So shameful of your ancestors pathetic fighting skill or rather, lack of it?


1979 – ten of thousands PLA soldiers lay dead at the border.

1788 – Emperor Nguyen Hue defeat over 200K Quing soldiers in less than 1 week.

1427 – Emperor Le Loi defeated over 300K Ming soldiers.

1257, 1284 and 1288 – Commander Tran Hung Dao defeat between 300K -500K Mongols/Yuan (chinese slaves) soldiers. No country on Earth would able to achieve such thing, beat the fearsome Mongols not one, not two, but THREE TIMES.


938 Battle of Bach Dang River - the end of china reign forever.


A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Use it, comrade. How pathetic.



Be Way
February 21, 2013 at 19:52


Honestly we don't give a damn of your historical rivalry with the Chinese as your enemy tomorrow could well turn to be the French, the Americans, Japanese or even the Cambodian, Laotian or Thai. On top of your neverending squabblings with external enemies, it's a shame of the Vietnamese that there are so many bloodsheds caused from your own internal conflicts ranging from your centuries of Nguyen, Tinh, Trieu, Ngo, Dinh and etc rivalries where it's the penchant of barbarity and brutality of every Vietnamese to fight amongst themselves with their base animal instincts instead of being rational and levelheaded.  

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