In recent decades, China has achieved major success not only in economics, politics, construction and sports. All this time it has been also actively modernizing the largest army on the planet. Only the country’s official military budget grew from less than $10 billion in the early 1990s to $177 billion in 2019, becoming the second largest in the world. Reforms conducted by the current President of China Xi Jinping dramatically increased combat efficiency of the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA), making it more mobile, modern and technically advanced. China’s military machine is now being transformed into an American-style army with a powerful fleet and aviation capable of conducting combat operations far from Chinese borders and protecting the global interests of the new superpower.
The United States have recently declared a trade and technological war on the PRC. Already at this point, all major American strategic documents call China “number one threat” to the US national interests. Today, an open military confrontation is much more likely to happen than it was twenty years ago.
The Chinese army firmly established itself as the world’s third-largest military force – second only to the United States and Russia. Even before the start of the current stage of forced modernization which began in the 1990s, the PRC was already one of the three countries capable of destroying any strategic object on the planet with an atomic missile. However, at that point Beijing lagged far behind its main competitors in terms of conventional weapons.
Things have seriously changed since that time. The military budget of China in 2019 equals $ 177 billion. In nominal terms, this figure is almost 3.8 times larger than the Russian military budget ($ 46 billion), but still does not reach even a quarter of the American one ($ 716 billion). China has finally moved away from the Soviet doctrine of the reliance on a huge land-based army and is currently developing the sea and air components of its military machine at a fast pace, which will allow it to use its military power far beyond national borders.
The Chinese auto industry is also becoming one of the world’s leaders. China is the largest automobile market in the world and also the largest automaker on the planet. Last year, it released 28 million 81 thousand new cars. The number of chinese car brands is constantly increasing: over the past year, 13 new local brands have appeared on the local market. Special mention should also be made of the so-called New Energy Vehicles segment, which includes rechargeable hybrids, electric cars and hydrogen cars.
China is now the world’s second largest exporter of military drones – one of the most advanced types of weapons. Chinese battle drones have already found their buyers in Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, Nigeria and even in Europe. In September 2019, Serbia Buys Chinese Wing Loong Attack Drones.
If we compare the armies of China, Russia and the United States in terms of numbers, we will discover that Beijing has many reasons for pride: it is ahead of its main competitors in many key indicators. This, however, does not say anything about the quality of their technologies. Some Chinese weapons systems are notoriously outdated, and their replacement with new models will occur only within the next five years.
Comparison of US, Russian and Chinese Military Armed Forces
The Chinese military-industrial complex is now one of the most powerful in the world, although in the late 1990s military experts considered it to be outdated: most of the technologies trailed far behind Russian and Western models. Richard Bitzinger, Senior researcher at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, highlights three key reasons for the dramatic breakthrough of China’s defense construction.
First, Beijing has introduced a new model for managing the defense industry, making it more “marketable.” The number of employees was reduced, production chains were consolidated, many conglomerates were divided into smaller companies and forced to compete with each other for government and export contracts. Secondly, in recent years Beijing has been relying on deep civil-military integration, trying to actively use the achievements of commercial sector in the military-industrial complex and encouraging military factories to commercialize their products. Thirdly, the greatest effect was exerted by a multiple increase in the military budget. Chinese enterprises got the opportunity to attract the best graduates of universities, invest in scientific developments and test new types of technology.