Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Military Spending: The cost of maintaining the biggest army on the planet

The Times article of yesterday provides some interesting facts and figures on the size and cost of maintaing an army of 2.3 million personnel (with another 800,000 reserves).

This post just picks out some of the more interesting numbers.

World’s largest army turns 80 with a show of strength and weakness

As part of the publicity campaign to mark the PLA’s 80th anniversary, the soldiers could reveal that they were woken at 6am in summer and that they earn 200 yuan (£13) a month as privates. But the programme for their daily training, like most other matters, was not open for discussion.

Not a large salary. The worry is that this salary is becoming increasingly worse relative to the wages paid in the private sector. At some point it will become dangerously low.
The budget for the 2.3 million-strong PLA balloons each year, rising 17.8 per cent to 351 billion yuan (£23.4 billion) this year — roughly the same as defence spending in Britain and Japan. That is still one tenth of US military costs. Analysts say that actual spending is much higher, since the figure in the budget does not include significant weapons purchases.

So it Chinese military spending a lot or a little? What is the per capita spending - a lot lower than the UK or France and China is a big country.

Standing force

— China’s combined military forces are almost 2.3 million personnel with a further 800,000 reserves. Paramilitary armed police, border guards and internal security contribute another 1.5 million

— The People’s Liberation Army numbers 1.6 million active troops, divided equally between conscripts and volunteers. They are split into 18 self-contained groups of infantry, artillery and air defence personnel, and are deployed across China’s seven military regions

— Strategic Missile Forces, the nuclear tip of China’s military pyramid, consist of 100,000 personnel and 800 missiles – 46 of these are intercontinental models capable of deploying nuclear warheads at up to 8,000 kilometres (4,500 miles) range

— China’s seas are defended by three fleets with a cumulative complement of 255,000 men, 76 surface vessels and 58 submarines. It has only one nuclear Xia submarine with a ballistic missile capability

— 210,000 serve in China’s air force, which can field more than 2,500 combat aircraft

— Pilots fly mostly retooled Cold Warera craft such as the J-7 Fishbed, based on the Russian MiG-21F, or domestic designs such as the J-8 Finback. China purchased SU-27 fighter bombers from Russia after abandoning domestic attempts to develop an equivalent capable of midair refuelling and maritime combat

Sources: International Institute for Strategic Studies; Federation of American Scientists;


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