The Chinese regime once again increased its defense spending: what capabilities does the world’s largest army possess?

Xi Jinping (The Grosby Group/file) (Sipa Usa/The Grosby Group/Lagenc/)

China has the largest standing army and navy in the world, and the regime announced on Sunday the largest increase in its military budget since 2019.

Here are some facts about China’s defense capabilities and how crucial military decisions are made:

The largest army in the world

He People’s Liberation Army (EPL) has more than two million men and women trained on active dutyaccording to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), making it the largest armed force in the world.

Ground troops make up the bulk of the army, with 965,000 soldiers, while the navy has 260,000 members and the air force 395,000. There is also a strategic missile force of 120,000 and a paramilitary arm of 500,000 soldiers.

Beijing has reduced its military in recent years, cutting nearly 300,000 soldiers from its ground forces in 2019, while has invested billions of dollars in defense modernization.

It plans to complete those efforts by 2035 and transform the army into a “world class” force to rival those of the United States and other Western powers by 2050.

Troops of the People's Liberation Army (Reuters)
Troops of the People’s Liberation Army (Reuters) (REUTERS /)

“China is modernizing its military in general, much-needed investment as some units are among the best trained and equipped in the world, but others are decades behind”, stated Niklas Swanstrom, director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy.

Navy and Air Force

China has the largest navy in the world in terms of number of ships, but the fleet contains many smaller warshipssuch as frigates and corvettes.

Beijing has three aircraft carriers, but only two are operational, and the third is still in testing. The United States has 11 aircraft carriers.

In November, the Pentagon claimed that Chinese air forces were “fast catching up” with Western ones.

According to an IISS analysis, “in the last three years the annual production rates of the J-16 and J-20 fighters have doubled″.

bases abroad

China only has a military base abroadin djiboutiwhich it says was established to protect commercial vessels from pirates operating near the Horn of Africa.

China is also modernizing the Ream Cambodian Naval Basebut it is not clear if a Chinese unit will be stationed there.

Ream is strategically located in the Gulf of Thailand, providing easy access to the disputed South China Sea, a key global shipping lane.

The Chinese military’s international experience has been limited to participating in UN peacekeeping missions in a handful of countries, including Sudan, Mali and Lebanon.

Xi’s army

President Xi Jinping has tightened his control over the army since he abolished term limits in 2018, allowing him to stay in power indefinitely.

In 2021, the National Defense Law was amended to give full responsibility for defense mobilization to the Xi-led Central Military Commission (CMC).

This means that the Council of State has no say in decisions related to military deployment.

The CMC is also in charge of managing and supervising the procurement of the People’s Liberation Army since March 2022.

The “operational effectiveness of the army, however, continues to be hampered by training and doctrine issues,” according to the IISS.

Nuclear and hypersonic missiles

China also has a large missile arsenalWith stealth aircraft and bombers capable of carrying nuclear weaponsas well as nuclear powered submarines.

Beijing has some 350 nuclear warheadsmuch less than the 5,428 that the United States has or the 5,977 that Russia has, according to data from the Stockholm International Institute for Peace Research (SIPRI).

China’s nuclear arsenal is expected to grow to about 1,500 warheads by 2035, the Pentagon said last year.

Beijing tried a hypersonic missile with nuclear capacity that went around the world in August 2021 and caught the US intelligence services by surprise.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles in Tiananmen Square (Reuters)
Intercontinental ballistic missiles in Tiananmen Square (Reuters) (JASON LEE /)

China has a strict “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons.

Increased spending

The increase in defense spending presented this Sunday, the strongest since 2019, will be 7.2%, a slight increase compared to +7.1% the previous year, according to a report from the Ministry of Finance published during the annual session. of the National People’s Assembly.

China will allocate 1.5 trillion yuan (225,000 million dollars) to his defense. Is he second world military budget behind that of the United States, which, however, is three times higher.

However, there is skepticism about the veracity of the Chinese figures. “A large part of their military research, such as missiles, cyber defense, etc., is not included in military spending, but is considered civilian research and development,” Niklas Swanström, director of the Policy Institute, told AFP. of Security and Development in Stockholm.

For the eighth year in a row, China’s defense budget increase stays below 10% but still arouses concern. distrust of countries with territorial disputes with the Asian giant.

This is the case, for example, of India with skirmishes on its disputed border in the Himalayas, of Japan for control of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands or of the Philippines due to regular incidents over the sovereignty of some islands in the South China Sea.

And Western countries are also restless. Senior US officials recently accused Beijing of wanting to invade Taiwan in a few years or of having a “fleet” of military balloons that spy on the entire world.

Even NATO, traditionally focused on Europe, has considered the eastern power since last year as a “challenge” for the “interests” of the Alliance members.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United States is the country with the highest military spending, with $801 billion in 2021, according to the latest available data. They are followed in this order by China (293,000), India (76,600), the United Kingdom (68,400), Russia (65,900) and France (56,600).

(With information from AFP)

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