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Why China is friend and foe at the Singapore Air Show


China's growing military might is prompting other nations in the region to spend more on weapons.


That trend is in evidence Tuesday at the start of the Singapore Air Show, where a host of countries and companies are showing off their defensive hardware.

这一趋势在周二的新加坡航展(Singapore Air Show)开始时就的得到了证实。在新加坡航空展上,许多国家和公司都在展示自己的防御性硬件。

Australia is displaying a pair of converted Boeing (BA) airliners that are used for tracking the skies and seas around the continent. The Royal Thai Air Force has brought its new Swedish-made Saab Gripen fighter jet. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin (LMT) and the U.S. Marines are showcasing a pair of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the first time in Asia.

澳大利亚正在展示一对改装的波音(BA)客机,用于监测欧洲大陆的天空和海洋。泰国皇家空军(Royal Thai Air Force)带来了新的由瑞典制造的萨博(Saab)鹰狮战斗机。与此同时,洛克希德•马丁公司和美国海军陆战队首次在亚洲展示了一对F-35联合攻击战斗机。

It's all part of a broad response to the Chinese military's growing reach at sea and in the air.


China is increasing its defense spending "at a pace that we haven't seen before," said Paul Burton, research director at defense intelligence firm Jane's. New fighter jets, transport planes, helicopters and naval ships are proliferating rapidly in the country.

国防情报公司Jane's的研究主管保罗•伯顿(Paul Burton)表示,中国正在“以我们从未见过的速度增加国防开支”。新战斗机、运输机、直升机和海军舰艇在该国迅速增加。

Jane's estimates Chinese defense spending climbed 5.2% between 2016 and 2017 to $192.5 billion. That's still $450 billion less than the U.S., but Burton estimates that in 15 to 20 years, China will have a similarly technologically advanced military.


The Asia-Pacific region is expected to be the driving force behind growth in global defense spending, which is forecast to hit a post-Cold War high this year, according to Jane's.


Burton says the Western hardware on display in Singapore shows many countries in the region "can't develop at the same pace as China" but can still buy gear to defend their "territorial integrity."


China insists its rise as a military power is peaceful. But it's locked in tense territorial disputes with various nations in the South and East China Seas that have also strained relations with the U.S. at times.

中国坚称其崛起的军事力量是和平的。但它与南中国海和东中国海(East China sea,中国称东海)的多个国家之间的领土争端紧张,这些国家有时也与美国关系紧张。

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the countries in the region splashing out on new weapons systems also all rely heavily on trade with China.


"It's a fascinating dynamic, it's really incredible to think of the twin track of it," Burton said. "It's a delicate balancing act" between maintaining trade ties with China and buying arms to defend against the potential threat.


An Airbus A350-1000 on display at the Singapore Air Show. Asia is expected to be crucial for future demand for jetliners.


For example, Australia, Japan and India each count China as its largest trading partner. They "court and covet Chinese investment that will be here long into the future," Burton said.


Chinese industry is also an exhibitor at the show, displaying its own domestic plane-making and cultivating export markets for its low-cost military drones.


The region is going to be a global growth engine for civilian plane makers like Boeing and Airbus(EADSF), as well.


Asian airlines are going to need a staggering 15,000 new jetliners worth almost $2.4 trillion over the next 20 years, according to Boeing.


The biggest chunk of that demand will come from China. But the country's airlines typically sit out the order spree that accompanies the Singapore show.


Instead, their counterparts in Indonesia, India and Malaysia usually announce orders for new jetliners at the event. And many of those airlines still expect to benefit from rising international travel by Chinese citizens.