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Does China Outspend US on Defense?
Can We Afford an Arms Race with the World’s Biggest Economy?
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America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era is to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union..The classified document makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behavior and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy. US Department of Defense, The New York Times, March, 1992.

In 2015 RAND reported, “China can now hold the US Navy’s surface fleet at risk at significant ranges from the mainland”. Two years later the Pentagon calculated, “The PLAN is the largest navy in Asia, with more than 300 surface ships, submarines, amphibious and patrol craft.”

In 2018, the US Navy’s Indo-Pacific Commander, Adm. Philip Davidson ⁠1, told the Senate, “There is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China”.

By next summer, says the Navy,⁠ the PLAN will have 342 deployable warships, far more than the USN can support in the area.

Our media, on the rare occasions when they reveal some truth about China, delay doing so for five to ten years. Ten years ago, for example, Huawei was gigantic, innovative and leading the race to 5G but we didn’t get the memo until twelve months ago. Today the media insist that China’s economy is ‘the second-largest on earth’ when even the CIA admits that it’s thirty percent bigger[1]Adjusted for purchasing power parity, PPP. than ours. This means, inter alia, that China’s defense budget is thirty percent bigger than we imagine and, since her economy grows three times faster than ours, its defense spending will equal ours eight years hence, in 2028, when she will have twice as many warships, aircraft and missiles as the US, all newer and of equal or better quality.

But PPP figures are only an average of all prices and fail to reflect the fact that Chinese defense dollars buy almost fifty-percent more than American defense dollars. In other words, China’s defense spending has already surpassed ours by a considerable margin. Here’s the reasoning:

  1. Beijing runs the most cost-effective government on earth. They know how to get value for money and, in every budget category, is a model of thrift:
  1. China outspends us by 300% on R&D. As with the US, much leading-edge research is military in nature but Beijing ensures that all of its discoveries are quickly exploited by the PLA.
  1. Beijing owns the defense contractors so saves on lobbying, bribes, profit-taking, rent-seeking, waste, redundancy, overpaid boards and executives, politically-driven decisions, and more.
  2. China is free to make consistently rational decisions about defense acquisitions. Demobilize a million troops? Done. Shift resources to the Rocket Force? Done. Recruit the entire Merchant Marine? Done.
  3. Beijing’s Military-Civil Fusion is a force multiplier that saves a bundle. China has three sea forces, each a subcomponent of its Armed Forces: the PLA Navy (PLAN), China Coast Guard (CCG), and the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM). Each has the world’s most ships in its category and all operate in concert under unified command and control. The first line of defense, the Maritime Militia,[3a] has 180,000 ocean-going fishing boats and four thousand merchant marine freighters–some towing passive sonar detectors. Crewed by a million experienced sailors, they transmit detailed information about every warship on the world’s oceans twenty-four hours a day. Shore bases fuse their reports with automated transmissions from Beidou positioning, navigation and timing satellites and provide real time data to reporting specialists, xinxiyuan, trained in target information collection and identification, who operate ‘vessel management platforms’ that collate, format and forward actionable information up the PLAN command chain. Shoreside, eight million coastal reservists train constantly in seamanship, emergency ship repairs, anti-air missile defense, light weapons and naval sabotage.
  1. Technology contributes to cost-effectiveness and capability enhancement: China, the world leader in chemistry, math, computer science, and engineering, has applied its chemistry expertise to propellants and explosives. All its missiles, from air-to-air to ICBMs, outrange ours by fifty- to one-hundred percent and their warheads doubtless pack a superior punch.
  2. Commonality Saves Billions. The fabled DF-21D ‘Carrier Killer’ is a repurposed IRBM the PLAN uses to loft many of the missiles footnoted below and, by mass producing them, reduces their cost to a fraction of ours while affording a mind-numbing[2]Surface-to- Surface: Ballistic Missiles Intercontinental DF-41 DF-31AG DF-31A DF-31 DF-5B DF-5 DF-4 Intermediate Range DF-26 DF-3A DF-3 Medium Range DF-17 DF-21 DF-2A DF-2 Short Range B-611 P-12 BRE8 DF-16 DF-15 (M-9) DF-11 (M-11) DF-1 M-7 AR-3 AR-8 WM-120 WS-2 series WS-3 series WS-15 WS-22 WS-32 WS-33 WS-35 WS-43 WS-63 WS-64 WS-600L A100 A200 A300 SR-5 SY300 SY400 Submarine Launched JL-3 JL-2 JL-1 Anti-Ship DF-26 DF-21D CM-401 Hypersonic Glide Missile DF-ZF Cruise Missiles Long Range Land Attack DH-2000 HN-2000 CJ-20 CJ-10 CF-2 CF-1 HN-3 HN-2 HN-1 Short Range Land Attack YJ-18 CX-1 CM-602G YJ-62 (C-602) YJ-85 (C-805)[1] YJ-12 YJ-22 KD-88 YJ-2 KD-63 YJ-63 (C-603) YJ-7 (C-701) C-703 C-704KD C-705KD YJ-4 YJ-1 C-611 XW-41 HD-1 Anti-Ship Supersonic YJ-12 YJ-18 CX-1 YJ-22 YJ-2 CJ-1 DH-2000 HN-2000 YJ-91 FL-7 HY-3 (C-301) FL-2 (C-101) 3M-80MBE/E Moskit (SS-N-22) 3M-54E/E1 Klub (SS-N-27) C-302 C-303 YJ-1 HD-1 Anti-Ship Subsonic YJ-100 YJ-62 (C-602) YJ-8 (C-801) YJ-82 YJ-83 (C-802) C-705 C-704 C-703 YJ-7 (C-701) FL-10 TL-10A TL-1A FL-8 TL-6 TL-2 FL-9 SY-1 HY-1 SY-2 HY-2 (C-201) HY-4 (C-401) XW-41 Anti-Tank Missiles CM-501G AFT-10 HJ-12 HJ-11 (AFT-11) CM-502KG HJ-10 BA-9 LJ-7 HJ-9 HJ-8 HJ-73 9K116 Bastion J-202 J-201 265-I Anti-Submarine CY-1 CY-2 CY-3 CY-4 CY-5 CJ-1 WS-3 ASW missile \

    Air-to- Surface: Cruise Missiles Long Range Land Attack CJ-20 CJ-10 HN-1 HN-2 HN-3 CF-2 CF-1 Short Range Land Attack YJ-12 YJ-22 YJ-62 (C-602) CM-802AKG YJ-2 KD-88 YJ-63 (C-603) KD-63 CM-400AKG CM-502KG YJ-1 BA-7 AKD-10 AR-1 YJ-85 (C-805)[1] C-704KD C-705KD YJ-7 (C-701) C-703 Kh-59 Kh-29 YJ-4 CS/BBC5 K/YBS500 TL500 QW-1 TB-1 KD1 KD2 LMD-002 LMD-003 Sky Arrow Sky Arrow 90 TBI Anti-Ship Supersonic YJ-12 YJ-22 DH-2000 HN-2000 YJ-2 CM-400AKG CJ-1 YJ-91 FL-7 HY-3 (C-301) FL-2 (C-101) C-302 C-303 3M-80MBE/E Moskit (SS-N-22) 3M-54E/E1 Klub (SS-N-27) YJ-1 Anti-Ship Subsonic YJ-7 (C-701) YJ-100 C-703 C-704 C-705 TL-10 TL-1 TL-6 TL-2 YJ-6 (C-601) YJ-61 (C-611) YJ-8K (C-801K) YJ-82 YJ-83 (C-802) Anti-Radiation CM400AKG LD10 YJ-12 YJ-91 FL-7 YJ-5 (HQ-61) Kh-31P Anti-Tank Missiles CM-501G AR-1 CM-502KG HJ-11 (AFT-11) LJ-7 HJ-10 BA-9 HJ-9 HJ-8 TB-1 HJ-73 Guided Bombs CM-506KG FT series TD series (TD500-ER) LS series CS/BBC5 K/YBS500 TL500 YZ-100 series YZ-102 series YZ-200 series LT series GB-1 TG-100/250/500/1000-ER ZD1 KAB-1500Kr KAB-500Kr Surface-to- Air: Anti-Satellite Missile DN-3 DN-2 SC-19 Anti-Ballistic Missile SAMs DN-3 DN-2 SC-19 HQ-26 HQ-19 HQ-29 HQ-18 S-300PMU-2 HQ-15 S-300PMU-1 (HQ-10) HQ-9 KS-2 KS-1 HQ-12 HQ-22 FJ S-400 Anti-(high)Radiation (emitter)platform SAMs FT-2000 Long Range Area Defence SAMs HQ-26 HQ-29 HQ-9 FD-2000 FK-3/HQ-22 Sky Dragon 50 HQ-18 HQ-15 S-300PMU-1 (HQ-10) S-300PMU-2 S-300PMU S-300FM S-400 Medium Range Area Defence SAMs DK-10A DK-10 (PL-12) LS-II ADS Sky Dragon 50 DK-10 (LY-60) PL-12 SAM HQ-16 (Buk/SA-17) / HQ-16A / HQ-16B / LY-80 HQ-12 KS-2 KS-1 S-75 (SA-2) & HQ-1/2/3/4 Short Range Point Defence SAMs HQ-7 (FM-80) HQ-64 HQ-6 HQ-61 HQ-6D LY-60 HQ-17 (Tor) TY-90 DK-9 CQW-2 FLS-1 FLG-1 FLV-1 FL-2000(V) FL-2000(V2)/FLV-2 FL-9 SG-2 ADS LS ADS YT ADS FN-6A FB-6A ZBL-09 ADS FL-3000N HN-5C TD-2000 TD-2000B TB-1 FB-6 FB-10 Man Portable SAMs QW-18 QW-11 QW-4 QW-3 QW-2 QW-1 TB-1 FN/FY-6 FN-16/FY-16 HN-5 HQ-5 HN-6

    Air-to-Air: Beyond Visual Range AAMs PL-21 PL-12 SD-10 SD-10A PL-11 PL-15 PL-4 Within Visual Range AAMs PL-10 PL-9 PL-8 (Python 3) PL-7 PL-6 PL-5 PL-3 PL-2 K-5 (PL-1) HJ-10 TY-90 QW-18 QW-11 QW-4 QW-3 TB-1 QW-2 FN-6 FN-16 HN-6
    variety.
  3. Mass Produced Warships. The PLAN launched seventeen warships in 2017 and nineteen last year, using a common approach to manufacturing while progressively cutting costs and improving each unit–sometimes based on radioed feedback from trialling ships. Their new submarine factory, the largest such facility on earth, produces six subs simultaneously, reducing construction costs to a fraction of ours. If the Chinese can build nuclear power plants for 35% of our cost, which they do, they can certainly produce cruisers like the Type 55, the most powerful surface combatant afloat, for half the cost of our Ticonderoga class.
  4. The PLAN spends solely for defense. Defense. In 2001, anti-American terrorists with global reach were found in only one or two countries. Today we are fighting terrorists in eighty nations at a cost of two-thirds of the discretionary budget and leaving little for productive investment–or even innovative weapon systems. The GWOT has cost $6.4 trillion, including veterans’ care and we are still garrisoning Germany and Japan, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. At our insistence, China built exactly one supply base, at Djibouti, which also anchors its massive (compared to our non-existent) development program for that country while we man and supply foreign bases in eight hundred locations.
  5. The PLARF can destroy every American city in 48 minutes. Even if China were to knock out all our foreign bases, were we to strike their territory China could (and, on past form, would) strike American mainland targets with equal ease. Talk about asymmetrical warfare!

It would be surprising if China did not pursue outright military dominance, given our recent behavior:

  • In 1951, US Navy warplanes flew low passes over the port city of Shantou.
  • In 1993, the Navy held the cargo ship Yinhe at gunpoint in international waters for three weeks, claiming she was carrying contraband (she wasn’t).
  • President Clinton sent two carrier battle groups into Chinese territorial waters, the Taiwan Strait, in 1996. In reality, says defense analyst Michael Thim, “The PLAN had sufficient capabilities in place in 1996 such that sending Carrier Strike Groups into the Taiwan Strait would be suicidal. The situation has only become more challenging for the US Navy in recent years–not because the PLAN has acquired an aircraft carrier of its own–but because China has greatly enhanced and modernized its existing anti-access/area-denial capabilities”.
  • In 1998, the US Air Force dropped five precision bombs on China’s embassy in Belgrade, killing three diplomats and seriously injuring twenty and CIA director George Tenet told the House Intelligence Sub-Committee, “It was the only target we nominated” and, when demonstrations erupted across China,
  • A 2014 article, Deterring the Dragon, in US Naval Institute Proceedings proposed laying offensive underwater mines along China’s coast to close main ports and destroy its maritime lines of communication while sending special forces to arm minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet.
  • In 2017 the Air Force reaffirmed its willingness to launch a nuclear attack on China
  • In 2018, Operation Talisman Sabre practiced blocking China’s access to oil through the Malacca Strait.

The Chinese people are well aware of our efforts to humiliate their country, as this chart demonstrates:

Is it game over?

Notes

[1] Adjusted for purchasing power parity, PPP.

[2] Surface-to- Surface: Ballistic Missiles Intercontinental DF-41 DF-31AG DF-31A DF-31 DF-5B DF-5 DF-4 Intermediate Range DF-26 DF-3A DF-3 Medium Range DF-17 DF-21 DF-2A DF-2 Short Range B-611 P-12 BRE8 DF-16 DF-15 (M-9) DF-11 (M-11) DF-1 M-7 AR-3 AR-8 WM-120 WS-2 series WS-3 series WS-15 WS-22 WS-32 WS-33 WS-35 WS-43 WS-63 WS-64 WS-600L A100 A200 A300 SR-5 SY300 SY400 Submarine Launched JL-3 JL-2 JL-1 Anti-Ship DF-26 DF-21D CM-401 Hypersonic Glide Missile DF-ZF Cruise Missiles Long Range Land Attack DH-2000 HN-2000 CJ-20 CJ-10 CF-2 CF-1 HN-3 HN-2 HN-1 Short Range Land Attack YJ-18 CX-1 CM-602G YJ-62 (C-602) YJ-85 (C-805)[1] YJ-12 YJ-22 KD-88 YJ-2 KD-63 YJ-63 (C-603) YJ-7 (C-701) C-703 C-704KD C-705KD YJ-4 YJ-1 C-611 XW-41 HD-1 Anti-Ship Supersonic YJ-12 YJ-18 CX-1 YJ-22 YJ-2 CJ-1 DH-2000 HN-2000 YJ-91 FL-7 HY-3 (C-301) FL-2 (C-101) 3M-80MBE/E Moskit (SS-N-22) 3M-54E/E1 Klub (SS-N-27) C-302 C-303 YJ-1 HD-1 Anti-Ship Subsonic YJ-100 YJ-62 (C-602) YJ-8 (C-801) YJ-82 YJ-83 (C-802) C-705 C-704 C-703 YJ-7 (C-701) FL-10 TL-10A TL-1A FL-8 TL-6 TL-2 FL-9 SY-1 HY-1 SY-2 HY-2 (C-201) HY-4 (C-401) XW-41 Anti-Tank Missiles CM-501G AFT-10 HJ-12 HJ-11 (AFT-11) CM-502KG HJ-10 BA-9 LJ-7 HJ-9 HJ-8 HJ-73 9K116 Bastion J-202 J-201 265-I Anti-Submarine CY-1 CY-2 CY-3 CY-4 CY-5 CJ-1 WS-3 ASW missile \

Air-to- Surface: Cruise Missiles Long Range Land Attack CJ-20 CJ-10 HN-1 HN-2 HN-3 CF-2 CF-1 Short Range Land Attack YJ-12 YJ-22 YJ-62 (C-602) CM-802AKG YJ-2 KD-88 YJ-63 (C-603) KD-63 CM-400AKG CM-502KG YJ-1 BA-7 AKD-10 AR-1 YJ-85 (C-805)[1] C-704KD C-705KD YJ-7 (C-701) C-703 Kh-59 Kh-29 YJ-4 CS/BBC5 K/YBS500 TL500 QW-1 TB-1 KD1 KD2 LMD-002 LMD-003 Sky Arrow Sky Arrow 90 TBI Anti-Ship Supersonic YJ-12 YJ-22 DH-2000 HN-2000 YJ-2 CM-400AKG CJ-1 YJ-91 FL-7 HY-3 (C-301) FL-2 (C-101) C-302 C-303 3M-80MBE/E Moskit (SS-N-22) 3M-54E/E1 Klub (SS-N-27) YJ-1 Anti-Ship Subsonic YJ-7 (C-701) YJ-100 C-703 C-704 C-705 TL-10 TL-1 TL-6 TL-2 YJ-6 (C-601) YJ-61 (C-611) YJ-8K (C-801K) YJ-82 YJ-83 (C-802) Anti-Radiation CM400AKG LD10 YJ-12 YJ-91 FL-7 YJ-5 (HQ-61) Kh-31P Anti-Tank Missiles CM-501G AR-1 CM-502KG HJ-11 (AFT-11) LJ-7 HJ-10 BA-9 HJ-9 HJ-8 TB-1 HJ-73 Guided Bombs CM-506KG FT series TD series (TD500-ER) LS series CS/BBC5 K/YBS500 TL500 YZ-100 series YZ-102 series YZ-200 series LT series GB-1 TG-100/250/500/1000-ER ZD1 KAB-1500Kr KAB-500Kr Surface-to- Air: Anti-Satellite Missile DN-3 DN-2 SC-19 Anti-Ballistic Missile SAMs DN-3 DN-2 SC-19 HQ-26 HQ-19 HQ-29 HQ-18 S-300PMU-2 HQ-15 S-300PMU-1 (HQ-10) HQ-9 KS-2 KS-1 HQ-12 HQ-22 FJ S-400 Anti-(high)Radiation (emitter)platform SAMs FT-2000 Long Range Area Defence SAMs HQ-26 HQ-29 HQ-9 FD-2000 FK-3/HQ-22 Sky Dragon 50 HQ-18 HQ-15 S-300PMU-1 (HQ-10) S-300PMU-2 S-300PMU S-300FM S-400 Medium Range Area Defence SAMs DK-10A DK-10 (PL-12) LS-II ADS Sky Dragon 50 DK-10 (LY-60) PL-12 SAM HQ-16 (Buk/SA-17) / HQ-16A / HQ-16B / LY-80 HQ-12 KS-2 KS-1 S-75 (SA-2) & HQ-1/2/3/4 Short Range Point Defence SAMs HQ-7 (FM-80) HQ-64 HQ-6 HQ-61 HQ-6D LY-60 HQ-17 (Tor) TY-90 DK-9 CQW-2 FLS-1 FLG-1 FLV-1 FL-2000(V) FL-2000(V2)/FLV-2 FL-9 SG-2 ADS LS ADS YT ADS FN-6A FB-6A ZBL-09 ADS FL-3000N HN-5C TD-2000 TD-2000B TB-1 FB-6 FB-10 Man Portable SAMs QW-18 QW-11 QW-4 QW-3 QW-2 QW-1 TB-1 FN/FY-6 FN-16/FY-16 HN-5 HQ-5 HN-6

Air-to-Air: Beyond Visual Range AAMs PL-21 PL-12 SD-10 SD-10A PL-11 PL-15 PL-4 Within Visual Range AAMs PL-10 PL-9 PL-8 (Python 3) PL-7 PL-6 PL-5 PL-3 PL-2 K-5 (PL-1) HJ-10 TY-90 QW-18 QW-11 QW-4 QW-3 TB-1 QW-2 FN-6 FN-16 HN-6

 
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