China’s massive ongoing military expansion includes new nuclear armed submarines, armed stealthy attack drones, aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, fifth-generation aircraft, and nuclear missiles. All of these advances are all well-known, and they continue to inspire attention and concern at the Pentagon.
Therefore, it comes as a surprise to nobody that, as expected and as is widely discussed, China is again massively revving up its defense spending as part of its documented 14th Five Year Plan for 2021 to 2025. In 2021, the Chinese Communist Party again raised its defense budget by 6.8 percent up to 1.3 trillion yuan, or $209 billion U.S. dollars.
“In recent years, due to the need to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, implement the military transformation with Chinese characteristics and better fulfill the international responsibilities of a major country, the Chinese government has generally kept a reasonable and steady growth in national defense expenditure amid the continued healthy development of the economy and society, boosting the national defense and economy at the same time,” Wu Qian, spokesperson of the People’s Liberation Army and People’s Armed Police Force delegation to the 4th session of the 13th National People’s Congress, says in a report from the Chinese-government backed Global Times.
The budget developments are but a mere part of a broader and very ambitious ongoing Chinese effort to greatly expand its global power reach, projection capacity and increasing ability to exert influence.
It takes little research to recognize the obvious, because China’s Navy is already larger than America’s and numerous Pentagon leaders now refer to China as the “pacing threat.” Moreover, Chinese technical advances in the areas of artificial intelligence, hypersonic missiles and shipbuilding capacity are now quite well known. China is already well underway with its third aircraft carrier with plans to build more, its third new Type 075 amphibious assault ship and commensurate efforts to add an F-35B-like maritime or carrier variant of its stealthy J-31 jet fighter. The Chinese Navy is also expected to double the size of its destroyers as well, a fleet which includes a growing number of Type 055 slightly stealthy advanced warships.
At the same time, China’s military expansion is not just new platforms but major upgrades to its weapons and existing systems. Of course, it’s often discussed carrier-killer missiles are of great interest to U.S. weapons developers, yet its lesser-known weapons such as the long-range, nuclear-armed and now underdevelopment submarine-launched JL-3 ballistic missiles are equally if not more significant. The JL-3 increases the ability for Chinese Jin-class nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to hold major portions of the continental United States at risk, given that they can reportedly travel as far as 4,000 miles.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.