TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Chinese military has pushed ahead of the U.S. in shipbuilding, land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, and integrated air defense systems, according to the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Power Report.
According to the report, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) goal is to become a “world-class” military by the end of 2049. In this context, Beijing will continue building its armed forces to be equal or stronger than the U.S. military or any other power China views as a threat.
China now has the largest navy in the world, with an overall force of around 350 ships and submarines, including over 130 major surface combatants. For the sake of comparison, the U.S. Navy currently possesses around 293 ships.
Beijing now has more than 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The U.S. currently only has one type of conventional GLBM with a range of 70 to 300 kilometers and no GLCMs.
The report also found that China now has the edge in integrated air defense systems, with one of the world’s largest forces of advanced long-range surface-to-air systems, including Russian-built S-400s, S-300s, and Chinese-made systems.
“China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms,” the report said. Beijing’s nuclear stockpile is currently estimated to be in the low 200s and is expected to at least double in size over the next 10 years.
China is also looking to build a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure in order for the PLA to project and sustain military effectiveness over greater distances. Besides its current base in Djibouti, China is likely considering PLA logistics facilities in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan.
Beijing’s official defense budget in 2019 was US$174 billion, which is approximately 1.3 percent of gross domestic product, the report states. However, it also noted that China’s actual military-relating spending could be more than US$200 billion, as Chinese published military budgets omit several categories of expenditures, including research and development and foreign weapons purchases.
In 2019, Japan’s defense budget was US$54 billion, South Korea’s was around $US40 billion, while Taiwan’s was US$10.9 billion.