Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Rise of China: Emerging External Security Challenge Facing the Philippines?

by Rommel C. Banlaoi

There is no doubt that China is the fastest growing power in the world today.[1]  Its phenomenal economic growth of almost 9 percent annually since 1979 is giving rise to China as a comprehensive power.[2]  This draws Southeast Asia countries into free-trade agreements, strategic partnerships and military exchanges and security dialogues. China is presently using its economic leverage and other soft-power capabilities to increase its influence in Southeast Asia and demonstrate its growing great power status not only in Asia but also in the global community of nations.[3] 

China's burgeoning economic power also has spillover effects on China's expanding military power causing security concerns in Southeast Asia.[4]  In 2007 alone, it has been noted that China’s defense budget has reached US$ 44.94 billion, representing an increase of 17.8 per cent compared to 2006.  The 2006 military spending has in fact doubled the defense budget in 2000.  In 2009, China’s defense budget grew by 14%, which is equivalent to US$70 billion.

If the current rate of China’s defense spending continues, it is projected that China’s defense expenditure will reach threefold or US$185 billion by 2025.   It is even forecasted that by 2025, China will become the second largest economy in the world with a status of leading military power in Asia. 

There is no doubt that the rise of China is creating some security wariness in the region.[5]  But the Philippines presently expresses an open-minded attitude towards China. The Philippine government does not  officially view the regional and even global ascendancy of China as a current threat.  Though the military establishment may have expressed the view that China can be an external threat, there is a general perspective in the civilian agencies of the national government that China presents an opportunity with concomitant emerging security challenges. [6] The Philippines has, in fact, a great interest in engaging China comprehensively to overcome the potential threat that China may pose.[7]  

[1] Jonathan Fenby, History of Modern China:  The Fall and Rise of Great Power, 1850-2009 (London and New York: Penguin Books, 2009) and William H. Overholt, The Rise of China:  How Economic Reform is Creating a New Superpower (New York:  W.W. Norton and Company, 1993).
[2] Carolyn W. Pumphrey (ed)  The Rise of China in Asia:  Security Implications (Carlisle, PA:  Strategic Studies Institute, 2002).
[3]Thomas Lum, Wayne M. Morrison, and Bruce Vaughn, “China’s Soft Power in Southeast Asia”, CRS Report for Congress (4 January 2008). Also see Eric Teo Cheow, “China’s Rising Soft Power in Southeast Asia,” Pac Net 19A, (3 May 2004) and Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt, “China’s "soft power" re-emergence in Southeast Asia” (Paper presented at the inaugural international workshop ‘China World’ at Asia Research Centre, Copenhagen Business School, on 10-11 March 2006).
[4]US  Department of Defense, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009 (Washington DC:  US Department of Defense, 2009).
[5] Elizabeth Economy, “China’s Rise in Southeast Asia:  Implications for the United States”, Journal of Contemporary China, vol. 14, no. 44 (August 2005), pp. 409-425. Also see Robert G. Sutter, “China’s Rise in Asia:  Promises, Prospects and Implications for the United States”, Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies Occasional Paper (February 2005) and Rommel C. Banlaoi, “Southeast Asian Perspectives on the Rise of China:  Regional Security After 9/11, Parameters, vol 33, no. 2 (Summer 2003), pp. 98-107.
[6] Rommel C. Banlaoi, Security Aspects of Philippines-China Relations:  Bilateral Issues and Concerns in the Age of Global Terrorism (Quezon City:  Rex Book Store International, 2007).
[7]For an excellent analysis of Philippine efforts to comprehensively engage China before 9/11, see Aileen S.P. Baviera, Strategic Issues in Philippines-China Relations: Comprehensive Engagement (Manila:  Philippine-China Development Resource  Center, 2000).

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