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China Spends Massively More on Defense Than We Thought – Almost As Much as U.S.

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The waters of global politics are rarely transparent, but recent revelations on China’s military spending have introduced a chilling opacity. “China spends about $700 billion annually,” stated Senator Dan Sullivan, echoing findings from US intelligence agencies and the prominent Swedish defense think tank, SIPRI. This assertion is staggering, especially when juxtaposed against China’s reported defense budget of less than $300 billion.

“Considering that we pay our soldiers more and the technology development is more expensive here than in China, it could very well be that China is outspending us on actual forces,” a worrisome notion that has sent shockwaves through defense circles. The crux of the concern is not merely in the numbers but in the secrecy. While the U.S. openly reports its defense budget, China’s figures have been widely suspected of downplaying the true extent of its military spending.

Such suspicions were further inflamed by the unsettling footage of a Chinese destroyer aggressively approaching a U.S. Navy warship in the Taiwan Strait. Such actions seem to underscore the urgency for a clearer understanding of Beijing’s military ambitions and capabilities.

Addressing this pressing issue, Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Dan Sullivan, along with their colleagues Senators Angus King and Joe Manchin, have tabled the China Defense Spending Transparency Act. This legislation seeks a “comprehensive report exposing the true extent of China’s defense-industrial build-up” from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Though China’s official defense outlay stands at roughly $220 billion, second only to the U.S., recent Pentagon reports suggest that the actual figure is far greater, perhaps “1.1 times to twice the size of the official statistics” These new revelations seem to indicate that we have badly underestimated China’s expenditures.

Such revelations become even more daunting when placed in context. Despite the U.S. allocating over $840 billion to the Pentagon, our expenditure also covers extensive military healthcare, pensions, and other costs not necessarily present in China’s spending. An analysis from 2021 starkly revealed that “entry-level pay for soldiers is 16 times higher in America than in China.” Rather than personnel costs, China’s budget largely focuses on military hardware, ensuring more ‘bang for their buck’. Moreover, without the bureaucratic delays of appropriations that sometimes hinder U.S. spending, China’s military machine seems to be operating at an accelerated pace.

“China is spending more than advertised, getting more weapons for the buck—and concentrating its forces on dominating the Western Pacific,” a strategic move, especially as the U.S. maintains commitments not just in Asia, but also in Europe and other global theaters.

In conclusion, transparency in defense spending is not just about accountability; it’s about understanding potential threats and global balance. The bipartisan Senate bill emerges as a crucial measure towards that understanding. As we grapple with the challenges posed by China, gaining clarity on its true military expenditure becomes imperative for global peace and stability.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-defense-spending-senate-bill-angus-king-dan-sullivan-u-s-beijing-military-c3b64ba

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2023-09-13/china-spends-700-billion-on-its-military-approaching-us-900-billion

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