Defense expenditure is one of the most direct ways of measuring a country’s military potential. The link between Chinese military spending and military power is complicated by a lack of transparency. Although Beijing provides figures for its defense spending each year, outside estimates of China’s defense budget are often significantly higher than the official numbers.
However, a top Pentagon official stated recently: “China’s defense budget has grown 850 per cent in the last 20 years from $20 billion to $170 billion in 2018”. The official further claimed that Beijing’s activities, such as militarization of the South China Sea, development of offensive cyber and space capabilities, and legal attempts to gain sensitive or advanced dual-use technologies to hold up with its military objectives, are conflicting with the rules-based international order.
According to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John C Rood, China owns one of the largest militaries in the world and keeps provoking other nations with its activities like in the South China Sea and in Africa, where China established its first overseas base ever in Djibouti in 2017.
Rood said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee “China’s official defense budget has grown 850 per cent over the past 20 years from USD 20 billion to USD 170 billion in 2018.”
Rood further stated that China has also planned to fund activities in ways that are specifically targeted at key US military advantages with new capabilities in such areas as space, cyber, electronic warfare, undersea warfare, fighter aircraft, bombers equipped with long-range cruise missiles, and other anti-access, area denial (A2AD) capabilities.
Rood said China’s military forces alone exceed one million personnel. A large maritime militia supplements its 300-ship navy and 250-ship coast guard. Its air forces run over 2,600 aircraft. It supports a ballistic missile arsenal consisting of 750-1500 short range, 150-450 medium-range, and 80-160 intermediate-range variants.
China has extensively developed its nuclear capabilities. People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy intends to increase the number of operational SSBN class submarines from four to six.
The Rocket Forces supports approximately 90 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, consisting of road mobile delivery systems. Orbiting out their nuclear triad is the PLA Air Force’s operational H-6K, and the chances of a future nuclear-capable stealth strategic bomber to debut in 2025.
These conveyance systems armed with nuclear weapons give China several ways of outstretching to the United States and epitomize China’s large-scale endeavours to build larger and more proficient forces armed with nuclear weapons.