The End of US Military Supremacy. China is now a genuine military challenger to the US
Yishai Gelb | 28.08.2022
We are accustomed to hearing that the US military is significantly more powerful than any other army. This, unfortunately, is no longer true. China's military has grown in size and quality, leaving the US without any significant advantage. Historically, a superpower's inability to keep up with its rivals technologically spells disaster for the world order.
The US formed the current world order in 1945 after World War 2. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the US rained as the hegemony policing the seas and controlling the world's monetary and economic system. The US maintained the world order thanks to a robust and dominant military unmatched by any other. China, however, has risen a lot faster than anticipated to become a significant competitor of the US, and the growth rate is not slowing down.
In numbers alone, the Chinees military surpasses that of the US in many significant fields. For example, the Chinees have 610K more active soldiers than the US military and have 469 million more fit-for-service citizens.
Financially, the US isn't leading by much anymore as well. The US defense budget is $540 billion higher than that of China. However, the Chinees purchasing power is $3 trillion higher than that of the US, and the Chinees foreign reserves are $3.1 trillion compared to the US $123 million. That means the military budget difference is negligible since a Chinees dollar goes much farther than the US dollar.
In terms of Land power, the US has a slight lead over the Chinees. The US has 1,300 more tanks and 10,000 more armored vehicles, lagging behind China with 2,600 less Self-propelled artillery and 1,700 fewer mobile rocket projectors.
The Chinees navy has surpassed that of the US with 290 more vessels. The US still has 9 more aircraft carriers than China, but China is quickly closing the gap. In addition, the Chinees military has 11 more submarines and 48 more corvettes.
The US has only one real advantage, and that is its airpower. The US has 750 more fighter aircraft, 690 more transporters, and 4,500 more helicopters.
Besides the size of the military, the Chinees are also beginning to take the technological lead. China is leading in supersonic missiles capable of bypassing existing air defense systems. The Chinees are constructing a space station that will be at the service of the Chinees government. In computing, China has more supercomputers than the US. While the US is still laying out its 5G technology in Telecommunications, the Chinese are already working on 6th Generation technology.
China's military rise places the US in a difficult position as the police of the world. China's growing military is coming with aggressive moves that question the American capability to respond. China has been building bases all over the world. For starters, China constructed numerous man-made islands in the South China Sea, contrary to international law. China has violated Taiwan's airspace multiple times and is building ports all over the world which will have the capacity to dock Chinees military ships. The consequences of such actions allow China to act contrary to international law without accountability, destabilizing the American-led world order.
Today's world order’s foundations are rooted in liberalism, capitalism, free trade, and the spread of democratic values. These include human rights activism, environmentalism, freedom of the press, and democratically elected governments and institutions. The US-led world order keeps trading routes open for free trade and inexpensive transfer of goods and services. The Chinees authoritarian Socialist capitalist model holds different sacred values that aren't aligned with Western values. The collective outweighs the individual; the government has unlimited rights to power, and the market is organized top down.
The US is taking measures to contain Chinees expansion. Militarily, the US is forming alliances with Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and India. Economically, the US is creating trade bubbles to reduce countries' reliance on Chinees trade. Finally, domestically, the US invests in local production lines and internal infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the US coalition might seem powerful; however, compared to a Russian Chinees alliance, there is a missmatch. The Chinese coalition will lead in manpower, naval power, ground power, and possibly technological innovation.
The war between a rising power and an existing world power only occurs when the aggressor calculates that it can win such a war. It would be suicide to start a battle knowing you are at a disadvantage. Today, in 2022, the US advantage over China has shrunk, and it would no longer be suicidal for China to go to an all-out war with the US. Consequently, the Chinese are motivated, well equipped, and powerful enough to begin spreading their influence more aggressively. Will the US stand up and defend its world order?