China's firepower 'over-stated'

08:40, December 25, 2009      

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China's military strength ranks second in the world in terms of expenditure, the number of troops and weaponry, according to a report released Thursday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

The data provokes many questions from scholars and the public, though the government think tank emphasized the ranking was just based on selected factors and is not a comparison of real military power of the concerned countries.

The US, Japan and Germany rank as the top three in terms of comprehensive national strength and China is in seventh place, according to the Report on Comprehensive National Power Assessment, which evaluated the militaries of 11 countries, including seven Western countries and Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called BRICs.

The evaluation index includes five direct constituent elements – territory and natural resources, population, economy, military and science and technology – and four influencing factors – social development, sustainability, security and domestic politics and international contributions, it said.

To the surprise of many, China's military power ranks second, with a total score of 33.3, behind the US, which scores 90.08, and just ahead of Russia, with 31.08.
"The high rank of China is mainly because it gets a higher score in terms of troop numbers and equipment," the report said.

The Human Development Report 2007-2008, released by the UN, showed that the size of China's military is the largest in the world, with 2.25 million troops, far more than the US' 1.5 million.

The report cites Wikipedia as saying, China's weaponry ranks third worldwide in terms of amount of equipment, with 240 nuclear weapons, 7,580 tanks, 1,700 fighter planes, 144 naval ships, and eight nuclear submarines, far less than that of Russia, which tops the list with 13,000 nuclear weapons and 22,800 tanks.

There was much speculation about China's military expenditure, with foreign institutes giving much higher estimates. The report, citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics, said China's spending last year was $60.9 billion, below that of the US, France and the UK.

Li Shaojun, a researcher with the CASS, told the Global Times that the US' $607 billion expenditure last year was 132 percent higher than that of the other 10 countries studied.

Military expert Song Xiaojun said the military ranking, based on three indexes, is not persuasive as China's military power is far from being in second place.

"China's defense construction still falls behind the development of the national economy." Song said. "If we are the second power, does it mean there is no need for us to develop our economy?"
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