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China’s Defense Budget Raises Questions as Claims Surpass U.S. Figures

The recent disclosure by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan has brought to light a substantial gap in China's defense budget, indicating that it could potentially reach $700 billion. This revelation has triggered a heated debate regarding its accuracy and its comparison to the United States' 2023 defense budget. (Photo: defenseone)

China’s Defense Budget Reveals Startling Disparity and Strategic Shift

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan’s recent revelation, has exposed a significant disparity in China’s defense budget, suggesting it may reach as high as $700 billion, leading to a contentious debate about its accuracy and how it compares to the United States’ 2023 defense budget. (Photo: bloomberg)

The Complex Factors Behind China’s Defense Budget Disparity

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan’s recent revelation, reported by, has exposed a significant disparity in China’s defense budget, proposing that it may reach as high as $700 billion. This figure starkly contrasts with prior estimates and nearly aligns with the United States’ 2023 defense budget, just over $800 billion, sparking a contentious debate about the accuracy of China’s defense budget assessments.

General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, contends that these estimates inadequately consider China’s lower domestic costs related to wages, weaponry, and facilities, making direct comparisons with the U.S. misleading. A key contributing factor to the favorable dynamics of China’s defense budget lies in the significantly lower labor and production costs within the country compared to the United States. Consequently, China can achieve more with its defense budget, despite it appearing smaller in dollar terms.

Furthermore, China’s official defense budget excludes several critical components, including paramilitary forces, the militarized coast guard, foreign weapons acquisitions, and military-civilian fusion initiatives. These exclusions cast doubt on the genuine extent of China’s defense budget’s military spending, with some estimates implying a substantial amount of undisclosed expenditure.

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Adapting to China’s Evolving Defense Budget and Strategy

Despite this budget disparity, the U.S. military currently maintains a qualitative and quantitative edge in terms of capacity and capability. However, when evaluating the strategic landscape and China’s defense budget modernization efforts this edge appears less pronounced.

China has been steadily shifting its military spending away from personnel and toward advanced equipment, including missiles, aircraft, and warships, signaling a change in its strategic focus. As such, U.S. policymakers and military strategists face the challenge of adapting to a changing dynamic, where China’s defense budget military capabilities continue to evolve rapidly.

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