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China’s Stealth Spending: True Cost of Military Might


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Unveiling China’s Defense Budget: A Closer Look at the Numbers

Sen. Dan Sullivan sounded an alarm in Congress in June 2023,asserting that China’s military buildup was rapidly narrowing the gap with the United States. Behind this claim lies a complex web of estimates, analyses, and geopolitical implications that demand attention.

The $700 Billion Question: Understanding China’s Military Spending

Sullivan’s remarks underscored a growing concern among US policymakers and analysts about the opacity surrounding China’s defense budget. Despite Beijing officially reporting a $229 billion expenditure, the real figure may be significantly higher, reaching an estimated $700 billion or more, according to various sources.

Unraveling the Enigma: Insights from the American Enterprise Institute

A recent report by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) sheds light on how US analysts arrived at this eye-popping figure. Mackenzie Eaglen, a senior fellow at AEI, meticulously dissected China’s budget reports, revealing a staggering disparity between stated figures and actual purchasing power.

Parsing the Numbers: China’s Military Budget Breakdown

Eaglen’s analysis suggests that China’s military expenditure encompasses a broad spectrum of expenses, ranging from traditional categories like equipment and training to less conspicuous areas such as research and development (R&D) and paramilitary operations.

The Hidden Costs: Deciphering China’s Defense Investments

One of the most striking revelations is China’s markedly lower labor costs, which significantly inflate the country’s military personnel budget. While Beijing’s reported wages may seem modest, Eaglen’s calculations suggest a vastly different reality when adjusted for purchasing power parity.

Beyond the Surface: Uncovering China’s Strategic Investments

Moreover, Eaglen contends that certain ostensibly civilian expenses, such as maintaining the People’s Armed Police and funding space operations, should be reclassified as defense spending. These allocations, she argues, underscore China’s concerted efforts to bolster its military capabilities.

Implications for Global Security: Balancing the Scales

Equalizing defense spending between the US and China poses significant challenges for strategic planners. While the US operates across multiple theaters worldwide, China focuses its resources primarily on the Indo-Pacific region, raising concerns about regional hegemony and geopolitical stability.

Towards Greater Transparency: Navigating the Complexities of Military Budgeting

Eaglen’s report calls for enhanced transparency in assessing China’s military capabilities, urging policymakers to confront the uncomfortable truth that America’s military dominance may be eroding. As the global balance of power evolves, informed decision-making becomes paramount.

A Call to Action: Charting the Course Ahead

As the US grapples with its own defense budget constraints, understanding China’s military ambitions takes on renewed urgency. By fostering transparency and accountability, policymakers can navigate the complexities of great-power competition and safeguard global security interests.

Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas is an accomplished journalist with extensive experience in the field. He has held prominent positions such as Editor at Daily Times and Daily Duniya. Currently, he serves as the Chief Editor (National) at The Think Tank Journal

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