4.3 Troops and missiles
Although overall military spending is one way of measuring military capabilities, the composition of the armed forces is also important. Table 3 below is an estimation of the relative military capabilities of China and the United States.
Table 3 Military assets, 2011
|Defence budget 2010-11, $bn||89.8||739.3|
|Share of GDP, %||1.3*||4.9|
|Active personnel, m||2.3||1.6|
|Strategic and long-range assets|
|Intercontinental ballistic missile launchers||66||450|
|Nuclear-powered submarines w/ ballistic missiles||3||14|
|Modern main battle tanks||2800||6302|
|Armoured infantry fighting vehicles||2390||6452|
|4th generation tactical aircraft||747||3092|
|Heavy/medium transport helicopters||294||2809|
|Principal amphibious ships||1||29|
|Heavy/medium transport aircraft||57||847|
|Heavy unmanned aerial vehicles||n/a||370|
Study Table 3, and then make some notes in the box below on the following questions.
- What overall picture does this convey?
- Are there any areas where China is in the lead? What kind of ‘threat’ might these areas of leadership pose?
- Overall, the United States maintains a considerable lead over China in most categories.
- The notable exception where China enjoys a lead is in the size of the armed forces where, on this 2009 estimate, China has 2.3 million active personnel compared to the United States' 1.6 million. However, such a force cannot pose much of a direct threat to the United States as the mobility of those forces is severely restricted. The ability to project force is therefore a crucial issue in estimating any perceived threat from China to US allies in the region, or the United States' ability to threaten mainland China. In direct relations between the two, the United States maintains a superior ability to inflict harm on China than China does on the United States. But in regional terms, China can project its force towards key US allies and this capability will increase if naval, air and missile power is increased.