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China’s Military Spending Nears Parity with the US

China's Military (Credits: The Japan Times)

The common claim that the US spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined is no longer accurate. China’s military budget has doubled in the last decade, and it now boasts the largest navy, coast guard, and maritime militia, as well as the biggest army and sub-strategic missile force. China is also making huge advancements in hypersonic missiles and quantum computing technologies.

Beijing’s self-reported defense budget is $229 billion, but research suggests that the actual figure could be as high as $711 billion, which is nearly equal to the US military budget. This is supported by estimates from American spy agencies, which put China’s military spending at around $700 billion.

US And China (Credits: CNN)

The difference in transparency between the US and China’s military budgets is important. The Pentagon releases thousands of pages of public budget documentation annually, while China’s budget is a single topline figure released through state media, excluding essential expenditures such as paramilitary organizations, defense research and development, and illegal island-building activities.

China’s military spending is more efficient due to lower labor costs, cheaper access to raw materials, and lower costs of industrial labor. When adjusted for purchasing power parity, China’s military spending is estimated to be around 96% of the US’s.

China’s consistent double-digit growth in military spending over the last 20 years contrasts with the US’s fluctuating funding, which has included cuts and constrained growth. The US needs to accurately account for China’s military spending to inform policy debates and ensure its military can keep up with China’s rapid advancements.

China and US (Credits: CNBC)

Congress has mandated a comparative study of the Chinese defense budget, which will help provide much-needed transparency.

Understanding China’s military spending is crucial for the US to maintain its military advantage and deter China and other adversaries. The US must be capable of absorbing attrition and sustaining a protracted conflict, and it cannot allow China to outmatch or outlast it.

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