China’s Military Spending

A first scan of estimates across the web (i.e. Global Security; Stockholm IPRI) immediately tells you no one really knows the amount of spending in China except to say it is significant and opaque.  It’s rank is always second, but how much and what percent of GDP is unknown.

The website Visual Economics pulls together data from a couple of sources and at least provides a visual perspective by region which is more helpful than pure number estimates:


Of course, the reality is that China’s military spending is growing, but a lot of data gets thrown around about stealth fighters, aircraft carriers, and cyber warfare that doesn’t speak to an over-arching issue: when China’s economy is the same size of the US (see a good CS Monitor article) they will be able to match our budget despite a still much smaller per capita GDP figure).

Combined with what will be 3 to 5 trillion dollars in reserves, China will have, dare I say, quite a war chest.  So to my mind, the question to ask is not whether China will continue to modernize their military -they will and should.  The question for us to track in the news is insight into their strategic goals, and the key issue for our security is a lack of transparency.

Instead of worrying about China’s investment into its military might, we should worry more about how it plans to use it.

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