13 March 2014

China’s Military Spending: At the Double

China’s Military Spending: At the Double,” The Economist, 15 March 2014.

China’s fast-growing defence budget worries its neighbours, but not every trend is in its favour …

In one of the biggest military reforms for years, announced in January, China is now attempting to create a Western-style structure of joint command. But that may prove a long and painful undertaking, because Chinese forces suffer from a lack of any recent operational experience. And as China seeks to project power, Andrew Erickson of the US Naval War College and Adam Liff of Harvard’s Belfer Centre predict it will find itself getting ever less bang for the buck. Developing the ability to wage war beyond its “immediate vicinity”, they write, would require much bigger increases in military spending and “heavy investment in new platforms, weapons and related systems”.

Then there is the tyranny of demography. While China may for some time be able to sustain the current rises in defence spending, before long its military ambitions will be curbed by a slowing economy and the demands of a rapidly ageing society for better pensions and health care. None of which means that neighbours are wrong to be worried. China has relatively weak command and control; it has senior commanders who lack experience of war but who are spoiling to show what their shiny new stuff can do; it chafes at unresolved claims and resents what it sees as encirclement by an American-led alliance. …

Additional sources:

Edward Wong, “China Announces 12.2% Increase in Military Budget,” New York Times, 5 March 2014.

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “Full Steam Ahead: China’s Ever-Increasing Military Budget,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 5 March 2014.

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Near-Seas Challenges,” The National Interest 129 (January-February 2014): 60-66.

Andrew S. Erickson, “Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” Panel II: “Inputs to China’s Military Modernization,” “China’s Military Modernization and its Implications for the United States” hearing, Washington, DC, 30 January 2014.

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Naval Modernization: Implications and Recommendations,” Testimony before the House Armed Services CommitteeSeapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, “U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategic Considerations Related to PLA Naval Forces” hearing, Washington, DC, 11 December 2013. Click here for oral statement.

Adam P. Liff and Andrew S. Erickson, “Demystifying China’s Defence Spending: Less Mysterious in the Aggregate,”The China Quarterly 216 (December 2013): 805-30.

Nathaniel Austin, “Lifting the Shroud on China’s Defense Spending: Trends, Drivers, and Implications—An Interview with Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff,” Policy Q&A, National Bureau of Asian Research, 16 May 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Defense Budget: A Richer Nation Builds a Stronger Army,” Inaugural Presentation in “China Reality Check” Speaker Series, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC, 8 April 2012.

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “China’s Military Development, Beyond the Numbers,” The Diplomat, 12 March 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “A Player, but No Superpower,” Foreign Policy, 7 March 2013.
Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Military Budget Bump: What it Means,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 5 March 2013.