First of all, China uses its combined political, economic, and military resources to further its objectives without fighting with other major powers such as the United States. In addition, a single authoritarian state may have an advantage in using centralized state planning to allocate resources and compete on both a civil and military level. Despite including some general information on civil, economic, and technological competition, the analysis focuses on military trends.
Second of all, Future warfare is expected to encompass irregular warfare as well as all segments of severe warfare. It will involve high degrees of future uncertainty and will be conducted at highly classified levels. Space, “informatisation,” joint all-domain operations, precision conventional strikes, artificial intelligence, and the use of foreign states and non-state groups are only a few of the alterations involved. These adjustments are not adequately grasped with the comprehensive data on forces and trends used in this evaluation, however they have already had a significant influence on the capability to influence, intimidate, deter, and fight, and China’s success in these areas—many of which are cutting-edge facets of civil technology and manufacturing—may be decisive in determining future military competition over the next several decades in ways that no one can now predict or assess.
Third, the U.S.’s emphasis on competition in the Pacific and the South China Sea, as well as China’s increasing pressure on South Korea, Japan, and India, has reinforced the importance of this data. Because the Chinese military has expanded in every region, this analysis shows that focus is justified. As a result, the U.S. has downplayed China’s ability to use its economic power globally to conduct gray and black operations, its ability to target Central Asian and Indian Ocean countries, its connection to Russia, and its status as a truly global power where its economic strength may compensate for its military weakness in projection. The focus of U.S. efforts to improve its ability to battle a significant China has been insufficient to compete against civil-military forces globally.
Fourth, China’s nuclear and dual nuclear/conventional warfighting forces and defenses may still improve in the future, and the U.S. is still in the process of creating a coherent strategy and force posture, as shown in President Trump’s FY2022 budget proposal. China is likely to create a more advanced mutual assured destruction capability at higher conflict levels, but will likely concentrate on economic and civilian competition – as well as gray areas, irregular, and conventional warfare at low levels. The nuclear balance is being redefined thanks to China’s emergence as a direct rival to the United States and as a much more robust military and economic power than Russia. The risk of nuclear escalation between the world’s major powers must now be evaluated in terms of three countries rather than two, and new types of conflict might further aggravate issues of deterrence, warfare, defense, and disarmament. ‘Mutual assured destruction’ and ‘mutual assured confusion and uncertainty’ are not the same thing.
Fifth, In international statistics, comparability issues are always more challenging, especially when they involve drastically different political, military, and economic systems. The data in this briefing are not exact figures from a particular source or method—which is not always described—but rather are rounded or adjusted to accurately reflect broad trends from classified sources. Current unclassified estimates are frequently absent or appear improbable because different data sources, experts, and comparison techniques concentrate on various metrics, time periods, and comparison techniques.