In Our Image? Technological Globalization and Defense Industrialization in East Asia

In Our Image? Technological Globalization and Defense Industrialization in East Asia

J.D. Kenneth Boutin


Globalization, which is here understood as “the intensification of economic, political, social, and cultural relations across borders,” has radically transformed the global structure of technological development, application and diffusion. Its traditional state-centric structure has progressively eroded under the pressure of the ever-increasing resource requirements of technological development. The result has been a growing disjuncture between processes of technological development, application and diffusion and individual nation-states.

This trend entails both negative and positive aspects from the perspective of states. For some states, technological globalization generates concern through its effect of complicating their efforts to control technological development, application and diffusion. Most states regard it in a positive light due to its potential role in facilitating their technological development. Technological development under conditions of globalization can benefit from improved access to the products of research and development (R&D) processes located elsewhere, and by facilitating collaborative technological development involving widely-separated research institutions.

Technological globalization has had a major impact on processes of defense industrialization in East Asia. Technological development within this region has accelerated as a result of technological globalization. Here, increasingly transnational processes of technological development, application and diffusion have occurred in tandem with rapid strides in the industrial and technological development of a number of states. The effect of this has been apparent in the notable progress registered in some states’ defense industrial development programs from the late 1980s onwards.

This study will analyze the impact of technological globalization on defense industrialization in East Asia. It will demonstrate how defense industrialization in this region following hi-end of the Cold War has differed from the traditional pattern. This trend is progressively undermining the traditional hierarchical structure of the global military order, eroding the distinction between “center” and “periphery” states that has existed since at least the sixteenth century.

The Traditional Model of defense Industrialization

Defense industrialization, defined as the development of an indigenous capacity to meet some or all of the material needs of the local defense establishment, is neither a recent nor an uncommon phenomenon. Recorded history is replete with examples of state actors actively promoting industrialization geared toward this objective. In fact, patterns of industrial policy in Western Europe and elsewhere, such as China during the “Self-Strengthening Movement” of the late nineteenth century, suggest that defense requirements have in many cases constituted the primary determinant of state support for industrialization.

Processes of defense industrialization have varied considerably between cases and over time. Differing state approaches have reflected the differing objectives and capabilities of the states involved as well as the impact of structural factors. In some cases, states have established and operated defense industries, while others have encouraged forms of private-sector industrial development conducive to the attainment of defense objectives. Frequently, some combination of these approaches has been evident.

Despite the evident variations in state policies, it is possible to distinguish two general approaches to defense industrialization. The first involves a focus on the immediate material requirements of the defense establishment. This generally emphasizes the production of armaments (or arms). Thus while this typically results in the establishment of production facilities for specific arms, it is not necessarily accompanied by the development of any capability to develop – or even produce – succeeding generations of arms.

This approach frequently results in the development of defense industrial capabilities which are unsustainable in the absence of high levels of political commitment, which is rarely forthcoming over the long term. Often, the production capacity involved proves economically unviable and atrophies in tandem with the decline in demand for the specific products involved. In a number of cases, attempts have been made to establish defense industrial capabilities which are beyond the technical and technological capacities of the states in question. The resulting “enclave”-type defense industries, being totally divorced from the factors underlying its level of industrialization, failed to survive.

The second approach to defense industrialization results from a more long-term focus. This approach is geared toward addressing defense requirements over a much more extended period, as well as those arising at that particular point in time. This encourages measures designed not only to meet immediate arms requirements, but also to provide a basis for doing so beyond current generations. The development of indigenous technological capabilities constitutes a critical aspect of this approach. This model of defense industrialization accordingly is characterized by efforts to promote, as well as to produce arms.

This approach has been responsible for the most impressive, sustained examples of defense industrial development (though not necessarily the most grandiose). This is true in regard to both the development and the production of arms. defense industrialization programs involving a long-term focus have had the greatest impact in terms of the development of indigenous defense capabilities and as a factor in interstate relations.

Regardless of the approach pursued, the traditional structure of private-sector enterprise has supported defense industrialization organized along national lines. Traditionally, the commercial sector has been structured around individual enterprises, which undertook R&D and production on a relatively independent basis. Often, these enterprises were located entirely within the borders of individual nation-states. Even multinational enterprises (MNEs), which by definition encompassed operations which were distributed internationally, generally established discrete operations involving a clear separation of activities along national lines.

This structure was hierarchical, with a vertical division of labour between the various sites at which work was undertaken. This division of labour was most apparent between the developed and the developing states, but further divisions were evident within the ranks of these groups of states themselves. The likelihood that R&D and production was sourced to developed industrial states was directly proportional to the degree of sophistication involved. Even in the case of these states, however, MNEs tended to restrict the most advanced work to their “home” countries. What activity was sourced to developing states was generally limited to low value-added, low technology production or assembly.

Centralizing tendencies were most pronounced in regard to R&D. This was subject to even greater efforts to restrict it to the “home” states of firms. Even where this was not the case, other developed industrial states generally hosted such activities. Rarely did MNEs undertake R&D in developing states. Where this did occur, it was limited to the adaptation of products developed elsewhere to meet the needs of local or regional markets.

One additional feature of this structure was the degree of distinction between R&D and production undertaken for defense and non-defense applications. There was relatively little integration between the two sectors. R&D and production geared to the requirements of the non-defense market were subject to market forces to a much greater extent than that intended to meet the needs of defense establishments. Under what Andrew Latham terms “military fordism,” the latter developed a distinctive set of manufacturing techniques, production processes and forms of corporate organization, all geared less toward economic efficiency than the maximization of combat capability.

Economic considerations frequently exerted little or no influence on the operation of defense industries.

The largely national structure of R&D and production coincided with the interests of those states which prioritized technological and industrial autarky in those sectors where this was considered important for security reasons. The national structure along which individual commercial enterprises were organized and operated facilitated state initiatives designed to prevent ownership and control over firms engaged in R&D passing to parties considered unacceptable on political grounds. This also provided a sound basis for the development of comprehensive uni and multilateral technology control regimes by developed industrial states.

Defense-related R&D and production traditionally have been undertaken on a national basis, either by commercial enterprises, or by states themselves. In the case of the former, this resulted from the structure of industry outlined above, as much as from the dictates of state actors intent on minimizing the effects of potential disruptions in supply from foreign sources. With state-owned or –operated industries, the prioritization of autarky by many states encouraged this.

Arms-related technological proliferation occurred, but this tended to a gradual process. Even in cases where technological innovations offered radical enhancements in military capabilities, there were often long intervals between their adoption by different states. Over 50 years after the introduction of jet-powered combat aircraft, for example, there are still states which have yet to make the transition from piston-engined aircraft types. Many developed states, cognizant of the strategic implications of the uncontrolled proliferation of critical arms-related technologies, have attempted to minimize this, in some cases seeking to prevent it altogether.

The resulting global military order was characterized by a hierarchical structure and a relatively gradual pace of change. These features will be examined in the sections which follow.

Hierarchical Structure

Traditionally, there has been a clear distinction between states in terms of their capacity to employ military force in support of political objectives. There was a close correlation between this and their capacity to develop and produce arms. The apex of this hierarchy of states was constituted by those able to undertake the most advanced R&D across a broad range of product areas. These were followed by multiple levels of states characterized by decreasing R&D and production capabilities, culminating in a level comprised of states lacking any capacity in this regard. These have been described by Peter Gál as the “technological desert” countries. A number of authors have conceptualized this structure in terms of “tiers” of arms producers.

It is important to note that often individual states possessed uneven capabilities for the development or production of different categories of arms. The capacity of the Canadian aerospace industry, for example, is not matched in terms of armoured fighting vehicles. Thus there are difficulties inherent in any attempt to produce an all-encompassing hierarchical template of states based on their defense-industrial capabilities. The order of templates will vary according to the industrial sector in question.

While many developing states registered technological progress, often this was the case only in absolute terms. In most cases, the pace of technological development was insufficient to offset the impact of ever-receding technological frontiers. Thus progress was rarely registered in relative terms. China, for example, “progressed” from copying late 1950s-vintage Soviet aircraft designs in the mid-1960s to copying mid-1960s Soviet and Western aircraft designs in the late-1980s. In many cases, structural and other obstacles prevented any narrowing of the technological divide with the developed industrial states.

Gradual Pace of Change

The resilience of the traditional hierarchy of the global military order has been reinforced by asymmetries in states’ capacities to develop and produce arms and by restrictions on their abilities to import arms and arms-related technologies. The difficulties inherent in overcoming these obstacles were such that most states failed in their attempts to improve their positions relative to those of the established powers.

The proliferation of arms has traditionally occurred via three main channels: the intentional transfer of arms and arms-related technologies, the capture of arms and illicit diversions of arms-related technologies, and through what can be termed “inspirational proliferation.” The former has constituted the primary channel for proliferation in the postwar period. Qualified state support for arms transfers grew from the late nineteenth century onwards. This reached the point in the postwar period where many arms exporting states provided financial assistance to exporting firms and training to customers. Some states have gone further and themselves actively marketed arms. States have played a crucial role through regulatory requirements, and the arms transfers that have been so important to developing states have largely been carried out under the mantle of bilateral arrangements between the governments involved.

The decision to export arms often has involved policy dilemmas for the states involved. Arms exports frequently involve conflicting economic and political objectives. Many states have sought to balance conflicting objectives, such as by reaping the economic benefits from arms exports while exerting a sufficient degree of control to avoid undermining their security. Others have prioritized one at the expense of the other.

Arms-related technology transfers were less prominent than transfers of arms themselves. Direct sales of arms-related technologies were rare until the postwar period. Previously, arms-related technology transfers generally occurred through what are now sometimes referred to as “technological mercenaries.” These were individuals who possessed knowledge and skills in the production or development of arms, who were willing to sell their services to other states. Examples of this include the Milanese gun founders who deserted to the Indian state of Calicut in 1503 and the German aircraft designer Kurt Tank, who contributed to the development of military aircraft in a number of countries following the end of the Second World War.

Transfers of arms-related technology increased in the postwar period, but were of greater importance to the developed than the developing states. The developed industrial states were much better situated to exploit the opportunities provided by technology transfer due to their more highly developed technological capacities. In fact, what constitutes a technology transfer to a developed state may not in the case of a developing state, if it is unable to exploit the technology involved.

The remaining channels for technological proliferation played a less prominent role. Arms captured in the course of interstate conflicts did enter service. Israel, for example, continues to operate large quantities of arms captured from neighbouring states as far back as 1967, including a wide range of artillery and armoured fighting vehicles. This form of arms transfer is much more common on the part of developing states, which are more likely to be forced by lack of resources to press any available arms into service.

Inspirational arms transfers resulted from the stimulus provided by observation of the possibility or practicability of specific solutions to technical problems embodied in arms developed elsewhere. The technical approaches followed in arms can encourage other researchers to follow similar developmental paths. This does not depend on access to the arms in question, but is limited to states already possessing a suitably advanced R&D capability. Thus this approach has been effectively limited to the developed states.

The proliferation of arms, particularly those of an advanced nature, was a relatively gradual process. It was usually the case that there were significant delays between the development of arms, their introduction into service in the states where they were developed, and their adoption by defense establishments elsewhere. A number of factors contributed to this, including the lead-times required to produce technologically-advanced arms, as well as political restrictions. The proliferation of arms-related technologies could even be more protracted, due to the difficulties inherent in mastering advanced technologies and if necessary reverse-engineering the arms incorporating them.

The Impact of Structural Inequalities

The effect of the structure outlined above, with its inherent bias against those states which were less-developed, was to encourage efforts by developing states to improve their positions relative to other states. Developing states have frequently found that the availability of arms is dependent upon the state of their political relations with supplier states. As Andrew Pierre has pointed out, “[a]rms sales are a barometer of politics among nations.” The implicit – if not explicit – requirement for recipient states to develop policy positions which are compatible with those of their suppliers jeopardizes the sovereignty of the former.

Most developing states attempted to develop indigenous defense-industrial capabilities to limit the impact of dependence on other states for arms supplies. Between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s, for example, the number of developing states producing tanks increased from one to six, and the number producing fighter aircraft from two to eight. The importance attached to the development of relatively-autonomous defense-industrial bases can be judged from the sacrifices that were made in pursuit of this objective. As noted by Moravcsik, this involved an “autarky-efficiency dilemma,” in which relative autonomy could only be attained at the expense of production efficiency. The increased costs stemming from the inefficiencies commonly associated with state-owned or –supported defense industries often were deemed acceptable, however.

This traditional system proved highly resilient. It entailed a high degree of dependence on the part of developing states, which proved difficult to overcome. Defense industrialization in developing states drew heavily on the developed industrial states for technology, technical assistance and even components and sub-components for incorporation into arms “produced” there.

Processes and Mechanisms of Change

Potential forces for change of the model of technological development and diffusion outlined above have been evident for some time. The “internationalization” of technology was prefigured by initiatives such as the relocation of Dutch gunfounding operations to Sweden in the early seventeenth century in order to capitalize on the availability of local resources. Further indications were evident by the late nineteenth century, in the form of the practice of establishing foreign manufacturing subsidiaries within Europe. This expanded during the interwar period, but remained confined to Europe and the handful of developed states located elsewhere. But it was not until after the end of the Second World War that the internationalization of technology became widespread. The decades since then have witnessed an expansion of transnational production and international technological collaboration, to the point where it has become commonplace, particularly in advanced technological sectors.

This process has progressed to the point where it is necessary to conceptualize it as technological “globalization” in order to distinguish it from the earlier process of internationalization. Technological globalization differs from this in terms of degree. As technological internationalization developed, there arose an increasing disjuncture between technological development, application and diffusion and individual nation-states.

Changes in the political environment resulting from the end of the Cold War facilitated this trend. These included the reduced defense expenditures made possible by lessened international tensions, which were particularly manifest in procurement budgets. Most developed states endeavoured to reap “peace dividends” in this manner. Budgetary restraints have encouraged more efficient use of resources, including through increased reliance on multilateral collaborative R&D programs. While the tortuous path of multilateral technological collaboration in Western Europe bears testimony to the political difficulties involved, the necessity of such an approach to technological development is widely accepted. This is true even of the technologically-advanced US. As early as 1989, the US Defense Advisory Board admitted that Technology is the new coinage of the realm and ours has been seriously depleted. … We cannot maintain a lead by conservatism and protectionism.

Structural economic factors constituted a much more important determinant of technological globalization, however. This occurred through the postwar expansion of the liberal economic order and the Fordist production paradigm of the mass production of standardized goods. By removing many of the barriers to international trade and investment, this economic system facilitated the international distribution of production facilities in order to exploit local cost advantages for labour and raw materials. This has been referred to as the “new international division of labour” or “strategic fragmenting.” Production networks have been organized on a regional or even a global basis.

Initially, the spatial division of labour involved represented no departure from previous patterns. This was hierarchical, with a concentration of more technology-intensive activities, including virtually all R&D and most production of high technology goods, in the developed industrial states. The role of developing states was largely confined to hosting low technology production and assembly.

This system contained within it the seeds of the demise of the existing global technological order. The intensive international trade in components, finished products and services and the networks of foreign subsidiaries which accompanied the development of transnational production arrangements constituted ideal conduits for technology transfer. States broadened their basis for technological innovation as they developed their industrial capabilities in the context of transnational production.

The logic that initially drove firms to cascade low technology production activities to developing states eventually had the same effect on high technology production and R&D. The requirement to reduce the costs of technological development encouraged firms to adopt similar approaches as those which had proven so effective in terms of manufacturing. This has been reflected in the increased international flows of technological data, design and production equipment and researchers which have characterized the post-Cold War period.

The point where the mere reproduction elsewhere of technologies developed in “home” countries gave way to widespread transnational technological development marked the transition to technological globalization. This will be examined in more detail in the following section.

Technological Globalization

Technological globalization represents a further deepening of the disjuncture between individual states and the development, application and diffusion of technology. Current trends suggest that technological globalization is not a transient phenomenon. It is growing more pronounced and is producing a global technology order that is increasingly flexible and polycentric.

Technological globalization has progressed to the point where it has rendered obsolete the production arrangements that engendered it. The “post-Fordist” production paradigm which is supplanting these entails the growing interdependence of “national” economies at multiple levels through processes of organizational and management change.

This centers around the flexible specialization involved in small-batch production undertaken at widely-separated sites by integrated commercial networks. This “third industrial revolution” has had radical implications for the conduct of R&D. While post-Fordism and technological globalization are not synonymous, they are closely linked. Technological globalization is considered one of the pillars of the post-Fordist economic order.

The postwar period has seen an accelerated pace of technological development. This has been reflected in the “military technical revolution,” under which revolutionary advances in military capabilities have resulted from technological progress. Its impact in the non-defense sector has been no less dramatic. The accelerating pace of technological development has seen drastically reduced intervals between the introduction of successive technological generations. Average commercial product and process “life spans” have declined to as little as two to three years from the previous seven or eight.

The accelerating pace of technological innovation has required financial, personnel and infrastructure resources far in excess of those previously called for. The financial costs of advanced technological development have experienced steady increases. Individual firms have increasingly found advanced R&D beyond their scope for this reason, and activities of this nature have frequently proven too risky to attract financing from commercial sources. These pressures are impacting on defense and non-defense-oriented firms alike.

Driven by spiraling resource requirements and facilitated by the possibility of real-time international information flows, advanced R&D is increasingly conducted on a transnational basis. Firms have forged innovative collaborative arrangements with their counterparts abroad. Often, these arrangements involve firms which lack formal institutional linkages and which are situated at great distances from each other. This has been reflected in the development of “silicon landscapes” in locations as diverse as Scotland and Taiwan.

These arrangements are distinguished by their degree of flexibility. Technological globalization has involved the development of “strategic alliances” based on temporary arrangements, which are often limited to specific products or projects. This enables firms to concentrate on what they perceive as their “core” activities, while drawing on their partners for other required resources and expertise. An illustrative example is provided by the recently-developed Boeing 777 airliner. Though it bears the label of Boeing, a cornerstone of the very capable US aerospace industry, it in fact is the product of a “real-time” development process involving Boeing and 241 other firms. These firms were situated in locations as diverse as Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, as well as the US.

A similar degree of flexibility has been evident at the intra-firm level, where efforts have been made to develop more efficient manufacturing and management procedures. These include initiatives such as “agile manufacturing” and “just-in-time production.” Under Lockheed Martin’s “Lean Enterprise” initiative, for example, it is attempting to reduce the production costs of the F-22 Raptor fighter to less than that of the preceding generation F-15 Eagle. This includes by progressing from development to production without having to undertake costly redesign, by producing and procuring components only when actually needed, and by a programme of continuous product improvement.

One other notable feature of this system is the eroding distinction between industrial activity geared to the needs of the defense and non-defense markets. The distinction of “dual use” technologies has been rendered obsolete by the pervasiveness of R&D and production applicable to both sectors. In the process, defense industrial activity has been subjected to market forces to an unprecedented degree.

Defense Industrialization in East Asia

The emerging industrial states of East Asia have much to gain from technological globalization. These states combine keen official and commercial interest in technological development with good prospects for exploiting the opportunities provided by technological globalization. The developmental successes of such “miracle economies” as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, and to a lesser degree Malaysia and Thailand, has long been noted. The pattern of development in these states has provided them with a solid foundation for the further development of their defense-industrial capabilities.

The emerging industrial states of East Asia are well-situated to contribute to transnational technological development. As a result of the degree of integration of their domestic industrial sectors with broader regional and global production and innovation networks, these states have developed infrastructures conducive to advanced technological innovation and structures for R&D and manufacturing.

The emerging industrial states of East Asia have figured prominently in transnational manufacturing arrangements for technologically-advanced products. Firms based in these states have established themselves in the information technology (IT) and aerospace fields in particular. Taiwan is a leading producer and an increasingly prominent innovator, and South Korean, Singaporean and Taiwanese firms have all contributed to the development and production of the Boeing 777, as noted above, for example.

The potential scope for the development of these states’ defense industries takes on added significance given their evident interest in defense modernization. Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of a number of ambitious military development programs in East Asia. The most noteworthy hove been those of the emerging industrial states. In some cases, such as in Malaysia and Thailand, defense modernization has had as its objective the transformation of the local defense establishment from a focus on internal security to one on addressing externally-derived conventional military threats. In others, it has sought the qualitative upgrading of defense establishments already oriented to the interstate context. defense modernization in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan conforms to this latter model.

East Asia has been notable in the post-Cold War period for the degree of continued interest in defense industrialization. Most other regions have experienced a contrary trend, as the availability of arms rendered surplus by the end of the Cold War at very low prices and reductions in defense establishments have served to reduce official interest in this. Within East Asia, it is the emerging industrial states which have made the most significant defense-industrial advances following the end of the Cold War. While none of these states yet approaches China or Japan in terms of the scope or level of sophistication of their defense industries, they have succeeded in narrowing the gap dividing them.

Defense Industrialization to the End of the Cold War

The East Asian region has a long – if chequered —history of defense industrialization. It has witnessed some of the most ambitious and sustained efforts to develop indigenous defense industries, and some of the most notable failures. China and Japan responded to aggression by extra-regional powers in the nineteenth century by attempting to narrow the qualitative military divide which rendered their efforts to resist futile. In the case of Japan, this ultimately succeeded, as its successes against American, British and Dutch military forces in the 1940s demonstrated. In the case of China, the Self-Strengthening Movement initiated by thoughtful scholar-officials failed to produce the radical change necessary, and China’s defense establishment and defense industries fragmented with the fall of the Ch’ing dynasty in 1911.

Defense industrialization in what are now the emerging industrial states of East Asia largely dates from the postwar period. A number of these states achieved independence and the ruling Kuomintang regime’s retreat from the Chinese mainland in 1948-49 effectively reduced the territory under its control to previously undeveloped Taiwan. Many of these states displayed an interest in defense industrialization.

Many of these states initiated programs to produce, and in some cases develop, the arms required by their defense establishments. With rare exceptions, defense industrial activity prior to the 1980s was very limited in scope. The emphasis remained on producing unsophisticated equipment such as small arms, transport vehicles, tactical communications equipment, patrol boats, and in some cases, unsophisticated aircraft types.

The more ambitious of these programs relied upon significant levels of foreign assistance. There was a dependence on foreign designs, such as Taiwan’s Hsiung Feng ship-to-ship missile, which was the Israeli Gabriel system produced under license. Many of these programs also relied on imported components. The Hughes Defender helicopter gunships and the Northrop Tiger II fighters produced in South Korea from the mid-1970s, for example, involved the assembly of components provided by the parent firms, though eventually South Korea was able to substitute some locally-made components.

Defense industrialization in these states was atypical in that these was interest in establishing depot-level maintenance capabilities for some types of arms and limited R&D was undertaken. Singapore and Taiwan provided the most notable examples of R&D prior to the end of the Cold War, but Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand figured in this as well. These R&D programs were distinguished by their short-term focus: they were applied R&D programs intended to provide for some of the short-term requirements of their respective defense establishments.

Despite the ambitious nature of some of these programs, they largely conformed to the traditional pattern: they either were limited to low-technology arms or were heavily dependent on external assistance. As such, they constituted no challenge to the established hierarchical structure of the global military order.

Defense Industrialization following the Cold War

The end of the Cold War did not put an end to widespread interest in non-incremental defense modernization on the part of East Asia’s emerging industrial states. The determinants vary between cases, but there is common interest in the enhancement of capacities to respond to interstate military threats and in acquiring the means to project power.

Defense industrialization in the East Asian emerging industrial states has increasingly deviated from the established pattern. There has been a notable trend toward R&D programmmes which are far more ambitious than those commonly associated with developing states. Not only are the arms being developed more advanced, but the states in question are assuming a more prominent part in their development. This includes participating in multinational R&D programs with developed industrial states.

Even more significantly, a number of these states are displaying sustained interest in long-term technological development with defense applications. This is a feature which is characteristic of developed but not developing states. It has the potential to contribute to the undermining of the present hierarchical structure of the global military order.

The late 1980s and the 1990s witnessed an upsurge in advanced arms development programs on the part of East Asia’s emerging industrial states. South Korea developed the K-1 main battle tank, Taiwan the Ching Kuo fighter, and Singapore the Bionix infantry fighting vehicle. While foreign assistance remains a feature of many of these programs, the domestic content has been quite high. The Bionix, for example, appears to have been developed without external assistance. It is clear that these states intend to continue this trend, and further upgrade their indigenous defense technological capabilities in critical sectors. Such intentions are manifest in South Korean plans for the KTX-2 advanced jet trainer and Indonesia’s plans for the development of Nurtanio.

Firms based in these emerging industrial states have been increasingly prominent in multinational development programs. Examples of this include the CN-235 transport aircraft, which has been jointly designed by Nurtanio and Spanish firm CASA and the recent announcement that Singapore and Israel would cooperate in the development of a surveillance satellite, though the extent of the former’s participation in this project remains to be seen.

There are strong indications that this trend will continue. Regional actors such as Taiwan are pursuing a strategy designed to deepen the integration of their firms into transnational innovation networks. Taiwan has promoted investment in foreign aerospace firms to this end, such as Taiwan Aerospace Corporation’s abortive efforts with McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace.

The persistence of interest in advanced defense-related technological development even on the part of seriously-afflicted states in the wake of the Asian Economic Crisis is worthy of note. While the onset of the Crisis in 1997 impacted severely on the capacities of a number of emerging industrial states such as Indonesia and South Korea to maintain ambitious development programs, the intention remains.

Sustained interest in long-term defense technological development, such as has been exhibited particularly by South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, will provide a basis for these states to advance in relative as well as absolute terms. By virtue of their progressively more sophisticated capacities for technological innovation, which are reinforced by the nature of their insertion into broader regional and even global networks for technological development, they will be in a position to ascend the hierarchical ladder of the global military order.

In the process, the dependence of these states on developed industrial arms suppliers will decrease, though this will not be eliminated entirely in the foreseeable future, due to the distance which has yet to be covered. These emerging industrial states already are notably more resistant to uni- and multilateral technology control regimes of the type targeted at states which are unable to exploit the wide range channels for technological proliferation which are available to them.


As the progress experienced by the emerging industrial states of East Asia indicates, the hierarchical structure of the global military order is not impermeable. The opportunities provided by long term-oriented defense industrialization, such as has been pursued by these states, indicate a viable route to this.

It will be important to consider whether other states might succeed in pursuing a similar approach, or whether the factors which have produced “economic miracles” in the East Asian region are crucial to the success of defense industrialization which is in the image of that which characterized the developed states.