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China’s defense spending increased tenfold in 25 years but still not a Super Power
China has witnessed double-digit economic growth for decades and has now becomes the world’s second largest economy. It possesses a sophisticated military that’s among the best in the world. Inspite of China bordering a number of small unstable countries, its borders are fully secure.
China in the past has suffered many invasions and has been humiliated by foreign aggressors at many occasions. This is probably one of the reasons why China’s defense spending has increased tenfold in the past 25 years. China has a long and extensive coastline and Beijing is leaving no stone unturned to build a powerful blue-water navy by developing stealth destroyers and frigates and a large fleet of nuclear submarines.
The west especially the United States is alarmed at the pace at which China is modernising its military along with an aggressive foreign policy. A few policy makers in Washington believe that China is the only military power that can in a few cases compete and actually defeat the United States Army in certain circumstances.
But the truth of China’s military is far from what the media portrays. China’s military budget has grown in double-digits year-on-year but the high cost of inflation in China is eating away the increase in funding. China’s Air Force, Navy and Army are ridden by corruption and their weapons are considered to be sub-standard and inferior to its western counterparts.
The PLA surely is slowly and steadily becoming technologically advance but that does not give Beijing the ability to mobilise its armed forces for Global Military Missions. The difference between the U.S. and China is that the former is an expeditionary super power with no enemies touching its borders where as China is a confined military power surrounded by potential enemies. China has unresolved border issues and territorial claims with almost every neighbouring country.
Russia, India, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines and Taiwan are just a few countries that surround China and are all economically strong and historic adversaries. China’s allies which is namely Pakistan and North Korea are weak and failed states with extremely high political and economic instability.
China’s Military Power ::
China has the world’s largest military with around 2.3 million standing army and around 8,00,000 reserve troops. These ground forces are mainly to protect China’s homeland defense. China’s 2.3 million army is divided into 18 group armies which are similar to an American Corp. Each army consists of three to five infantry and mechanized divisions. China has only one tank division.
The PLA Navy commands 255,000 sailors and 10,000 highly trained marines. PLA naval forces are divided into the North, East and South seas fleet. It possesses one aircraft carrier, 23 destroyers, 52 frigates, 49 diesel attack submarines and five nuclear attack subs. It also has at least three Jin-class ballistic missile submarines that represent China’s undersea nuclear deterrent.
The Air Force has 330,000 active personnel spread out at 150 air and naval aviation bases. China possesses 1321 fighter and attack aircraft’s including hundreds of J-7s, 134 heavy bombers and tankers and 20 early warning air planes. It also has more than 700 combat helicopters in its inventory.
The PLA also consists of a unique Second Artillery Corp which is a separate branch of the military that is in charge of China’s land based conventional and nuclear missiles. The Second Artillery Corp has around 90,000 personnel divided into six missile brigades.
The Second Artillery Corp has more than 1,100 conventional short range 1,000 km ballistic missiles, 300 medium range and 120 long range nuclear ballistic missiles.
China’s Military Spending ::
International analysts believe that China spent around $188 billion dollars in 2013 which is about 9% of Global military spend and just under half of all spending in Asia. In 2013, the US spent $640 bn, Russia $88bn, India $47bn, and Japan $48bn.
China might seem to be spending a lot but its military technology is far inferior to major countries surrounding it. For example the bulk of Chinese Air Force is obsolete and comprises of Chinese made fighter jets which are untested and unproven in battle. China cannot purchase sophisticated weapons from Europe and America as there is an international ban in the sale of sophisticated military weapons to China.
China’s arsenal overflows with outdated equipment. It has around 7,580 battle tanks but only 450 of those are Type 98As and Type 99s. They are no where close to modern technology. Comparatively, all of America’s 5,000 M-1 tanks are modern.
China’s aggressive behaviour to India’s advantage ::
China’s aggressive behaviour in the East and South China Seas has prompted many of its neighbours to band together and seek support of larger more powerful allies like India and Japan. Japan is building relationships with China’s other disgruntled neighbours and with Western powers. Tokyo is currently in talks with Australia, the U.K., India, Indonesia, The Philippines, Vietnam, Canada, and the U.S. to form an axis to confine and challenge China’s hegemony.
Keeping a watch on China ::
China has nuclear weapons. It is ruled by a strong nationalistic communist government with a history of brutality towards its own citizens. It ha territorial claims with all its neighbours and a defense budget that is rising by 8% annually. It is wise for India and other powers to keep a watchful eye on China and try to contain it by joining military alliances.
China still has a long way to go before it poses a major challenge to countries like the U.S., Australia, Japan, Taiwan and India and the rest of the world.
Article written by Darshil R Patel exclusively for Defence News.