China’s “Moderate” 2024 Defense Budget Hides Frenetic Military Build-up

China has the most number of aircraft, warships and tanks outside of the U.S.
  • Bureau
  • Tuesday, March 5, 2024 @ 10:33 AM
  • 5277
China’s “Moderate” 2024 Defense Budget Hides Frenetic Military Build-up

A pair of J-20 stealth jets on exercise @PLA Air Force

China on Tuesday  revealed a draft defense budget draft for 2024 amounting to 1.66554 trillion yuan ($231.36 billion), an increase of 7.2 percent from the previous year.

While the figures may be modest compared to that of the United States’ record $886 billion annual military spending for fiscal 2024, it does not take into account China’s massive expansion and modernization of all its three branches of armed forces.

“The moderate figure reflects China's reasonable, restrained and steady steps in national defense development, which takes factors including military modernization, external security environments and economic development into account,” pro-government media, Global Times said.

The proposed defense budget was released in a draft budget report issued at the opening of the second session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, on Tuesday.

Military Build-up:

China has equipped its forces with the latest in aircraft, warships, tanks and other equipment bringing it up to what the U.S. calls as “near peer,” meaning it is nearly matching the U.S. and its allies in firepower.

Aided by low cost of domestic research and development besides cheaper manufacturing and labor cost, China’s arms industry supplies its armed forces with weapons that cost a fraction of what similar systems would in Western countries.

China’s “Moderate” 2024 Defense Budget Hides Frenetic Military Build-up
J-35 stealth fighter and J-15 fighter models on aircraft carrier Liaoning

Stealth fighter jets

China is the only country besides the U.S. to have fifth generation stealth fighter jet as the mainstay of its air force.  In September 2022, the PLA Air Force announced that the J-20s stealth aircraft began to be delivered to the Eastern, Southern, Western, Northern and Central theater commands. A large number of J-20s have likely been delivered since then, and many more will be built in the years to come, Global Times reported in February 2024.

Land army

 China has a huge selection of artillery, armored vehicles and tanks that keep its land forces, among the biggest land army in the world well equipped and ready for battle.   

China’s “Moderate” 2024 Defense Budget Hides Frenetic Military Build-up
Wing Loong 10 combat UAV

Blue water navy

China has expanded its blue-water naval capability with the commissioning of three aircraft carriers. The last one, the Fujian, comes with a catapult launch system and is testing the PLA Navy’s carrier-borne stealth fighter, the J-35 on it. Again, China is the only country outside the U.S. and U.K. to have such a capability.

Last month, the eighth Type 055 large destroyer was commissioned into the PLA Navy with more on the way. Having a displacement of more than 12,000 tons, the Type 055 ranks among most powerful of multirole warships.  Its 112-tube vertical launch system can hoist air defense, anti-ship, anti-submarine and land attack missiles.

The PLA Navy has landing ships, supply vessels and electronic warfare assets in adequate numbers. These vessels are frequently deployed in intimidatory exercises around Taiwan.

Drone power

In drones, the Chinese military is an acknowledged leader with its CH and Wing Loong series of drones considered a huge success in the international market. The latest addition is the Sky Hawk stealth UAV made for reconnaissance and attack with some reports stating it would function as a loyal wingman to the J-20 and J-35.

China’s “Moderate” 2024 Defense Budget Hides Frenetic Military Build-up