13 March 2014

Washington Post Editorial: “Beijing’s Breakneck Defense Spending Poses a Challenge to the U.S.”

Beijing’s Breakneck Defense Spending Poses a Challenge to the U.S.,” Editorial, Washington Post, 12 March 2014.

CHINA PRESENTS the rest of the world with a puzzle when it announces, each year, another big leap in defense spending. On March 5, it revealed a 12.2 percent increase over last year, to almost $132 billion, the second-largest military budget in the world after the United States (which remains far larger at $526.8 billion). The puzzle is not whether China can afford such a budget — clearly it can — but what does it need it for? What are China’s intentions and capabilities?

China strives to be a regional superpower, not a global one, at least for now. It has put an emphasis on developing advanced weapons systems that could deliver what the United States calls “anti-access/area denial,” meaning to deter adversaries from areas that China claims — or to expel them. Thus, China is investing in weapons such as long-range cruise missiles and an anti-ship ballistic missile designed to hit an aircraft carrier. Such investments pose asymmetric threats to the United States and its allies. Andrew S. Erickson of the Naval War College presented estimates to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in January that China could build some 1,227 of the anti-ship missiles for what it costs the United States to build a single Ford-class aircraft carrier. It might take just one missile to kill a carrier.

China’s defense boost comes at a time when the United States and its allies are struggling with shrinking military spending. … China can probably afford to fulfill its ambitions. That is no puzzle and will be a challenge to the United States and its allies for years to come.

Here is the full text of the testimony referenced here:

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.

For further information, see:

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, “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.