China’s Hidden Defense Budget
China’s military spending is larger than believed; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently called for increasing the U.S. defense budget.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s objective for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to achieve military superiority over the United States by 2050. Achieving this goal is directly predicated on the amount of money the two nations spend on defense. Previously, it was believed that China was spending $224.79 billion
, a fraction of the U.S. military's budget of $857.9 billion
However, the U.S. intelligence community recently discovered that China may be spending as much as $700 billion, allowing China to challenge the United States for military supremacy much sooner than originally believed. This new revelation has lawmakers concerned
One of the ways Beijing disguised its spending was by directing money into the military-civil fusion
, whereby the central government provides money to private companies to develop dual-use technology. Some of the most critical areas of military development, such as shipbuilding, information technology, and aerospace, are funded in this way. These three domains are expected to play the largest role in any war between the United States and China. A special danger regarding information technology and aerospace is that the ability to dominate cyberspace or damage or disable satellites will be crucial in 21st-century warfare. It could leave ships and planes unable to navigate or communicate, or prevent the United States from guiding its missiles to targets.
China’s Coast Guard
and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia
are not covered by the defense budget. These two forces have been aggressively pushing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) territorial claims in the South China Sea, as well as conducting spying in the Bay of Bengal. They carry weapons and enforce Beijing’s foreign policy objectives
but are not considered part of the PLA Navy.
China is one of the five largest arms importers
in the world. During the past five years, China’s arms imports
have been rising, with 83 percent coming from Russia. China primarily imports weapons and technology that cannot be produced domestically, such as long-range strike capabilities, combat aircraft, and missiles. These imports do not count
in Beijing’s official defense spending figures. Research and development are other large expenditures not charged to the country’s defense budget.
Purchasing power parity is another reason why China’s spending may be amplified. Because labor and many basic products and services are much cheaper in China than in the United States, Beijing can buy more of them with a smaller budget. Soldiers’ salaries are much higher in the United States than in China. A private in the PLA has a starting salary of $108 per month
. In the U.S. Army, it is $1,918
. On a similar note, the United States has been plagued by inflation, with prices increasing by an average of nearly 18 percent
since the Biden administration began. China, by contrast, is facing deflation. While prices are going up in the United States, they are going down in China, making it possible for the CCP to buy more goods and services for the PLA.
The PLA Navy and PLA Air Force have increasingly threatened the sea and air space around Taiwan. In response, the United States is strengthening its defense ties with Taiwan, India, Australia, and other nations. The U.S. Department of Defense has stated that it is trying to prevent a war in the
Indo-Pacific region but wants to be ready if war breaks out.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the increase in the U.S. defense budget this year was “driven by the seriousness of our strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China
.” Now, it appears that China is spending more than originally believed; the stakes have been raised.
Mr. McConnell, in a Sept. 19 statement, recognized the grave importance of stepping up U.S. preparations for a possible war with China. He called for more military spending, saying that “closing the gap
with China—and outcompeting our biggest strategic adversary—will require more than innovation theater or speeches about revolutions in military affairs. Real progress will require real investments in long-range strike capabilities. Real expansion of our defense production capacity. Real defense technology cooperation with our closest allies who increasingly share our concerns about the PLA.”
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.