China’s Unaffordable Military

Published on Author kavanaght16

China, like many nations with super-power aspirations, feels the need for regional domination. As the Malaysian Airplane incident has exposed, China has less control over the Far East would like. The way China has attempted to control the often chaotic region is through over-whelming military dominance. However, China is quickly learning that they might not be able to sustain the enormous military needed for regional supremacy.

The problem facing China is combination of an overestimate coupled with irresponsible spending. First, we will examine the overestimate. China expected to experience GDP growth of 7.5% for the fiscal year of 2014. This 7.5% growth rate was extended into government calculations and China’s military was given permission to increase spending at that rate. This alone would cause significant finical issues for the government as already experts doubt China will achieve the 7.5% rate they predict. So, even if the military had spent within their constraints the government would not have likely been able to cover the cost. In reality, the problem facing China is much more serious as military spending has increased to $131.6 billion dollars, a 12.2% bump from 2013. The military rationalized overspending by saying inflation is responsible for 5.8% spending over budget. The experts dispel this claim as China is likely to experience little to now inflation of the yuan this year. The combination of overly optimistic economic forecasting and overspending in the military have put China in a delicate situation and sound fiscal policy will be needed to right the ship.

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7 Responses to China’s Unaffordable Military

  1. Most of the articles that I’ve read so far mention in some way or another the size and power of China’s military. However, they dodge the economic impact of having such a dominant military. China is trying to preserve and expand its sphere of influence, but without question it has an opportunity cost.

  2. Interesting take on China’s military expansion. In my most recent post, I mention this budget increase as well as the PLC’s shortcomings (primarily software development) in the context of the Ukraine crisis and China’s broader geopolitical strategy. One thing to consider is that in terms of regional domination, China has succeeded through economic, not military, power. Why is China building up its military? What are China’s military ambitions, if any? Besides perhaps the Russian Far East, I can think of no territories China would like to annex that are not already in dispute (e.g. islands/reefs in East and South China Seas, disputes with Bhutan, Nepal, India, and Pakistan, etc).

    • I agree that China’s extensive military build up is an intriguing question. I propose to possible explanations. First, China could be using its massive military as means of improving its economic clout. If nations, such as the United States and Russia, view China a military threat they could be more willing in economic partnerships beneficial to China. Alternatively, a more cynical interpretation of China’s military expansion is that China could be hoping to create a bi-polar international political structure similar to the Cold-War. During that time, smaller regional economies deferred allegiance to the closest superpower. If China is able to build a sufficiently large military, this bi-polar dynamic could return with the eastern hemisphere aligning economically and military with China and the western hemisphere with the United States.

  3. The US was/is in a similar situation when it comes to the size of the military. Militaries cost a ton of money, especially ones on the size scale of China and the US. Especially when there aren’t current wars being waged, people question why militaries are being built up. The US has recently cut back on their military to save money. China enjoys being the superpower of the east, and they need a military to do this. I don’t see them giving up their power and really cutting back on their military. Because the worst thing in the world is needing a military and not having one.

  4. It doesn’t seem plausible for China to maintain its current military spending and growth. It seems possible that eventually China’s military prowess will diminish and its status as the East’s dominant military will be replaced by the recently aggressive Russia. If Putin continues with his somewhat reckless behavior, this could spell trouble in the East.

  5. “Control” is a very strong word – more on motives below.
    By what criteria do you judge “can’t afford”? Is it crowing out other sorts of expenditures? No! That the budget might increase faster than GDP is hardly evidence that China can’t afford it. The government is not running significant deficits, and the national tax level is low.
    But motivations – why not those of the US? “We’re behind … our weapons are old … we’ll order stuff from your home district or your company.” Then there’s the political structure – the generation of leaders who rose to prominence as a consequence of military victory ca. 1950 have only just passed from the scene. In 1969 the military was central in suppressing the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution when rival factions raided armories and began fighting each other in the streets of Shanghai and elsewhere. The military was central in suppressing the student movement in Tiananmen in 1989. Military leaders held Standing Committee membership. Despite their influence, the military has never had a formal political role in the US.
    Does China want to exert influence in “its sphere”? Does it worry about the security of the sea lanes on which it depends for petroleum and other inbound, critical items and for exports in the outbound direction? Border disputes? Then there are foreign rivals, the US has troops on China’s periphery (Japan, Australia, Guam and now the Philippines), of course the Russians are there, and the ‘stans have outsiders meddling.
    Finally, back to the weapons part: China’s military was not “modern” and equipping, training and providing basing and logistics support does not cheap. They’re still playing catch-up.