According to news reports, China will lower its defense budget growth rate to 7.5 percent in 2019, from last years' 8.1 percent. This is the fourth consecutive year that China’s defense budget has fallen below double digits. The total budget of China's defense this year is 1.19 trillion yuan, or about $177.61 billion.
China still has a long way to go to improve its actual combat ability. In terms of maritime strength, there is a huge gap between China and the U.S. The U.S. has 11 large aircraft carrier battle groups. Even if the U.S. Navy does not develop from now on, it still takes China a few decades to catch up with it.
In terms of nuclear power, the current size of the U.S. and Russia’s nuclear arsenal is also impossible for China to catch up with. It is generally believed that the possession of Chinese nuclear warheads has been lower than that of the UK and France.
In this way, this generation of Chinese is unlikely to establish a military force equivalent to that of the U.S. as their goal. The U.S. military not only has the power, but also defines itself as an army that performs its mission globally and its global system of alliances also supports this position. China does not want to go that far because of its military strength, its goals and supporting capability of its overseas bases.
China’s increase in military spending is intended to meet real-world defense needs. On the one hand, China’s national defense strategy is defensive in nature, and on the other hand, China’s security threats and challenges are increasing.
The U.S. has declared China a major strategic competitor and various pressures on China have been increasing, which has also seriously increased China’s security risks. In the long run, China must constantly increase the cost of U.S. military provocation against China, making it an unbearable burden for Washington in order to further strengthen China’s national security.
In addition, some trends are worthy of attention.
First, China’s military spending has a strong capability to continue to increase, and China’s total military spending will be further expanded. But with no ambition for world hegemony, China will not seek to maintain the size of a global military in the future.
Second, globalization has determined that it is impossible for China and the U.S. to conduct arms race and military competition for a comprehensive military showdown. That will be too crazy, and the times is very different compared with the situation during the Cold War. The security issue between China and the U.S. may end up being controlled in ways that are still unpredictable today.
Third, China and the U.S. have different basic security thinking and strategic ideas. The two countries are unlikely to launch an arms race in the traditional sense. China will build a national security barrier with its own ideas while the U.S. will continue to follow its hegemonic approach for a while.
However, Washington’s insatiable pursuit of absolute military superiority may not last long. There is a high probability that such pursuit will prove to be poorly targeted and wasteful.