How powerful is the Chinese Military?

I was just wondering about their actual capabilities rather than how capable they seem through their propaganda. What are their weaknesses, and will they ever achieve parity with the United States? Also, what are their strengths?

China has between 2.3 and 2.6 million people in their military service.
3k aircraft, of which 1200 fighters
3.5 k tanks
Etc etc, readily available on line. It has way more manpower than the US, but in equipment they still lag (it’s not just the number, but also quality of the Jets, tanks etc)
China spends about a third of what the US spends, but they spend it in an economy with lower price points. An argument could be made they buy about the equivalent of half-two-thirds of the US. And then a lot of tech they don’t buy, they just steal.
Since the US doesn’t share a land border with China, it’s hard to define parity - it will be rockets against aircraft carriers more than tank vs tank.
Countries it does share borders with: they probably are close to parity with Russia, but have much more personnel and they have about a third more equipment than India.

The problem with China’s military is that even they themselves don’t know what they’re capable of simply because they have not had any real-world combat experience in the modern era. They’re furiously upgrading their military technology but personnel from rank and file soldiers to mission operation commanders lack experience and knowledge to use it effectively and to coordinate their actions.

People point to China having the largest standing army in the world as one of its strength, but its combat intelligence is low when compared to, for example, U.S. military training with its high professionalization and well-formed battle-tested doctrines. Also, corruption and graft is rife in many Chinese institutions and the military is no different. The army is rotting from the inside and it’s leading to low morale and disillusionment.

The one “advantage” the Chinese military has is that it’s less adverse to body count compared to Western armed forces. They can wage war and sacrifice its troops much longer than what the U.S. army has the stomach for. Even if they can’t win with power and tactics, they may through attrition.

There was a recent very long thread on this topic. Unfortunately I’m just using my phone and searching for stuff is a pain.

But anyway I recall one conclusion was that, despite having a couple aircraft carriers, the Chinese military is not really set up to project power far from its own borders.
So on the question of comparing their military to the US’, a big factor is where a hypothetical conflict is taking place.

Sounds like a World War One quote.

Leaving nukes out of the equation.

There is a huge difference in the power of a military depending on the operation it is involved in. The most basic way to estimate is to compare raw numbers at various levels. But the big difference is attack or defend. On your territory or the enemy territory. How far, if it is attack. Where are your forces positioned and how are they supplied.

Generally, it requires more force to attack an enemy in their territory, than for them to defend. It also requires extending and maintaining/defending supply lines. The defender does not need to worry about that as much.

At present the Chinese military force is large. But compared to say the U.S. it does not have as much ability to project conventional force far afield. Skipping over other countries to attack far away. The U.S. not only has a formidable supply transport system, but also has hundreds of bases already in place around China.

At this time, I would not be overly concerned about China being able to support a large scale attack more than one country away. Mostly. But I think it would be foolish for anyone to attack China.

I feel the need to yap on.

Warfare is so much more than material and soldiers. There are so many ways to invade on multiple fronts. Target in country groups to rise up as guerilla warfare. China has a fair portion of dissatisfied folks. Use long range attacks to destroy infrastructure. Easier to do these days. Which also causes internal strife.

An attack these days can be done from farther away, in several ways, at low level over longer time. The systems and the people are just more vulnerable. Smaller attacks done right can produce larger negative effects.

War is becoming too damn complex. It can be hard to tell exactly when it begins. If it is being won. Who is currently against who. And will it ever end?

As **Kedikat **said, a lot of it depends on homefield advantage. Any USA-China war is certainly going to be fought in China’s backyard, not America’s. That means a lot less geographical distance for China to cover and a lot more for America, although the presence of numerous U.S. bases in Okinawa, South Korea, the Japanese mainland, Guam, Diego Garcia, Philippines negates that somewhat.

China’s main strength is its massive army, however, given that there is ocean that separates China from all U.S. allies which it could conceivably go to war against (South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, etc.) its ground strength is severely limited by the ability to ferry them by air or sea. It therefore would be an air-and-sea battle. American warplanes generally outclass their Chinese foes (i.e., F-22 and F-35 versus the Chinese Jian-family of fighters and imported Sukhois,) but the U.S. forces would need more aerial refueling, etc. to get into the battlespace and loiter there.

At sea, it would be a heavily submarine-versus-submarine fight. With an all-SSN sub fleet, there would be an American advantage to some degree, but then again it is China’s backyard and it only needs diesels to lurk in its own littorals. But it would be hard for Chinese diesels to threaten an American carrier battle group operating in the blue-water Pacific and traveling at a high speed at all times.

(double post due to 504 error)

Missile tech is forcing naval forces to stand off further. Somewhat negating carrier air attack. It might even begin to negate nearby airbases to some extent. The game is changing rapidly. Many countries are not adapting fast enough. The initial exchanges in a large scale war may be very shocking to those who have planned it. For decades, the wars we have had are very limited and lopsided. Some folks are still planning to fight with outdated concepts.

Pretty sure they aren’t going to be surprising.
In the industrial era the exact amount of losses has never been the “surprise”. Its been the ability of states to fight on despite the losses. For years.

Modern war won’t be like World War II, though. In World War II, airplanes, ships, tanks, etc. were simple enough that they could be cranked out en masse by factories in the American homeland and sent out to fight in a relatively short time. Today’s fighters, destroyers, submarines, etc. are so intricately complex that they take a lead time of many months to complete. It’s likely that World War 3 - should it stay conventional - will be a “come as you are” war. By the time any newly manufactured replacement warplanes or warships are completed, the war could already be over.

Yeah, about that.

That doesn’t contradict what I said. Modern state-vs-state warfare isn’t going to last five years like WW2, it will likely to be short and sharp (re: 1991 Gulf War, as opposed to the decades-long insurgency war in Afghanistan) and quite likelier to be brought to an end sooner than the construction timespan of a single Chinese or American warship. In addition, the U.S. would probably target Chinese shipyards, warplane-assembly lines, etc. in time of war, so that would be disrupted as well.

Questions arise. How much of the Chinese military is tasked with internal control vs external power projection? Does China have real interests in projecting power beyond their own backyard? Yes, they’d like to take Taiwan. I can see attacks on East Asian allies provoking a US response. But would a US administration move to aid South or Southeast Asian non-allies? I expect Chinese leaders are not deluded that they would prevail in any direct conflict with the US, so what horrible desperation would drive them to try? Maybe that’s a question for another thread.

The leadership of the Chinese Military is deedly compromised by corruption & incompetence.

Theft, of parts, wages of troops, food for troops, etc is near-universal.

Many of the aircraft cited are non-operational, due to a shortage of parts & properly-trained ground crews.

The Chinese Navy is a subordinated to the Army, & often has choices made & regulations written by 'ground-pounders" that are hopelessly out of touch.

Naval morale is near zero, & I would not be surprised to hear of mutinies.

China has the largest military in the world.

So what? They can successfully invade Vietnam, Kazakhstan, North Korea and Siberia.

BFD. Tissue-paper tiger, if that. I worry more about what’s in my Tangerine Chicken than I do the Chinese military.

Can you back up these statements with any cites or explain how you came to this info?

News articles over the last several years, here.

That link goes to a website which I’m sure contains the information you reference. But please don’t expect us to sift through the archives. Please provide links to relevant stories.