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Holding steady: Asia-Pacific defence spending shows signs of ‘normality'

China accounted for 46% of total APAC defence spending in 2024. (Janes)

In a global geopolitical and economic context of ever-increasing uncertainty, Asia-Pacific's defence spending growth in 2024 is, at first glance at least, remarkably pedestrian – even subdued. With a significant proportion of the region's budgets published at least in draft form, military expenditure in Asia in the year is expected to have risen to USD603.9 billion.

This represents a nominal rise of 4.9% but is just 2.1% larger after the effects of inflation are taken into account. By the latter measure, spending is calculated to be USD12.1 billion higher than in 2023 – compared with an average annual expansion of almost USD22 billion over the previous five years.

This represents a significant slowdown in the rate of spending growth, which spiked to 7.5% year on year in 2023, when Asia-Pacific countries added more than USD41.5 billion to their total defence spend; the most in dollar terms than in any year on Janes record.

The main driver of this deceleration has been a return to more normal levels of growth in the largest budgets of the region, after these countries increased spending by notably large, or even unprecedented, amounts in 2023. This means that although the total regional growth rate has fallen sharply, it is unlikely to be evidence of a major change in trajectory. In fact, 14 Asia-Pacific countries out of the 22 whose budgets are tracked by Janes raised them or are likely to do so in 2024, compared with 13 in 2023.

Global context

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