China vs United States - Who Will Win WW3? || Military Army Comparison
With Russia's invasion of Ukraine most of the world's attention is on eastern Europe, and a potential confrontation between Russia and America. However, for those in the know, the real cause for concern is China's reaction to Russia's invasion. Rather than joining the world in condemning Russia, China has joined India in sidelining the seriousness of the invasion. Even worse, China now supports and helps spread Kremlin propaganda, suppressing the atrocities committed by Russia on Ukrainian civilians.
Why is China so interested in helping Russia weather the global storm it unleashed? Because China has plans to launch its own invasion, and that puts it on a collision course with the United States of America. Not long ago China's President Xi Jinping stated that China must reunite the breakaway island of Taiwan with the mainland. After World War II, Chinese nationalists continued their war against rebel Communist forces, inevitably losing and being forced to flee the mainland for the island of Taiwan. In the years since, Taiwan has flourished into a vibrant democracy and a major global economy- but China refuses to acknowledge its independence and threatens military action and economic punishment against anyone who does. The problem with what would be an otherwise internal security matter for the Chinese is that the US has vowed to defend the fellow democracy against Chinese aggression. But why does China want Taiwan so bad? The reasons are numerous, but chief amongst them is because Taiwan represents a critical strategic vulnerability for China. Currently, China is hemmed in by what's known
as the 'first island chain'. This includes Taiwan, the northern Philippines, Borneo, Japan, and the Ryukyu Islands. Originally, the United States used the first island chain as a strategy to hem in the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War and deny them access to the Pacific in case of war. To that end, it established strong relationships with all first island chain nations with partnerships that continue to this day. Now the Cold War is over, but a new cold war has dawned- and China is America's new rival. With
pro-US forces all along the first island chain, China will never be able to be a true global power, as its navy is too vulnerable to attack. Taking Taiwan will break the island chain in two, and give China an island fortress from which to project power deep into the Pacific. But Taiwan is itself a critical threat to China's continued existence- or at least its continued existence under the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party. As a democratic state, Taiwan is an example to all of China of a different, better way of life, and many young Chinese people who are being increasingly exposed to foreign culture are growing tired of the oppressive rule of the CCP. For them, Taiwan is a beacon of hope for what China could look like, rather than the nation of strict censorship, government intimidation, and very limited freedom that exists today.
Despite erecting the Great Firewall in order to try and limit China's access to uncensored information, influence from outside of China still reaches the country’s citizens. This is a dire threat to the CCP, and thus neutralizing Taiwan and bringing it into the fold is but one step into ensuring its own survival. Next, it must topple the United States as the head of the global order so it can export its brand of authoritarianism around the globe.
If it can control global culture, it doesn't need to fear rebellion within its own borders. Taking Taiwan is a strategic necessity if China is going to challenge the influence of the US. If China is going to rise as the dominant superpower, or even just one that can compete with the United States, it must also be able to control the south Pacific. Currently, the United States navy operates with impunity across the Pacific, and this puts critical Chinese trade routes in serious risk in case of war against the US. China imports the majority of its oil and relies on exports for much of its trade- if the US were to cut this lifeline off, China's economy would shrink significantly. Taking Taiwan and throwing the US out of the South Pacific thus ensures the safety and security of its trade, and removes the dagger the US currently holds to China's throat in case of war.
But how exactly is China going to take on the world's most powerful military, is it truly capable of challenging the US, and what do the numbers say? China's strategy to dethrone the United States is to dominate what has come to be called the 'fourth industrial revolution'. The first industrial revolution was the use of steam power to mechanize production, allowing for never before seen productivity and efficiency. Not long after came the second industrial revolution, heralded by cheap and abundant electricity which allowed mass production on an epic scale. The third industrial revolution introduced
advanced electronics and information technology to automate production, and now we are building on this revolution for what has become known as the fourth industrial revolution. This new revolution will be a digital revolution, with billions of people connected electronically and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-d printing, quantum computing, and other fields. Much like the first factory to install a steam engine couldn't picture what the world would look like just ten years from then, it's hard for us to predict what life will look like in the wake of the fourth industrial revolution, though it is going to be the most revolutionary change in the affairs of human history. However, China is picturing the fourth industrial revolution as the key to global hegemony, and it is investing billions into ensuring that it is the dominant power in the new world to come. China's strategy to dominate the world in the coming decades is a fusion of civilian and military application of technology. First, it is striving to be a leader in technology development,
ensuring that it is the first to create revolutionary technologies, thus enriching itself financially and creating dependency from the world on Chinese goods and services. Secondly, China is seeking to quickly turn new technological breakthroughs into usable military technologies that will allow it to surpass and dominate the United States. China envisions future technologies as increasing the speed of future warfare, with future military success reliant on having forces that are “mechanized, informatized, and intelligentized”, according to the 2021 DoD's China Military Power Report. What this means is that China understands that victory is only possible with fully mechanized forces capable of being quickly moved into conflict zones and supported with heavy firepower. However, those forces must also have access to a wealth of information via disseminated sensor systems, with this information shepherded through artificial intelligence that can give battlefield commanders exactly the information they need at the moment, while temporarily ignoring what they don't. Warfighters don't just
need information, they need help sorting through it and quickly utilizing what is presently useful. If this sounds familiar to any of our viewers, it's because this is exactly the requirements the US military was investigating just a few years ago. China's Academy of Military Science has now established a mandate “that the People's Liberation Army's warfighting theory and doctrine fully capitalize on disruptive technologies like AI and autonomous systems.” Much like the US did
in the first Cold War, China's focus is on building a modern, state-of-the-art force- but today's force must be capable of accessing vast amounts of information and supported by AI that can execute automated tasks and assist with decision making. China wants to teach machines how to wage war, so they can advise commanders in the thick of battle. Currently, the Chinese military is not very well networked- but those capabilities are increasing every year. It was only a few years ago that China first established a combined arms operations capability by establishing joint chains of command between its services in the same style as the United States. Now it seeks to match the US's networked capabilities by 2027, and exceed them shortly after. But why is networking so important?
Well, for one it is what makes the US military so immediately lethal to opponents. Having the ability to network together ground, sea, air, and space assets allows for the swift exchange of information, and gives a fighting force incredible adaptability and initiative on the battlefield. For an example of what happens when a modern force is not networked, all one has to do is look at the terrible losses being suffered by the Russians against a nation a fraction their size and capability. In the 21st century, the Russian military is still
fighting battles like it was World War 2, and the Ukrainians are making them suffer for it. In order to become a global leader in defense technology, China is taking a page straight out of the US's book by pursuing a strategy of civil-military fusion. What made the United States the superior power during the first Cold War was the close partnership between its military and civilian industry, which thrived in an environment of innovation. Such a partnership allowed for the swift adaptation of civilian technological
breakthroughs into military assets, and vice versa- with US military technology breakthroughs quickly adapted into civilian technologies, making US companies the most competitive in the world. Artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, and biotechnology will shape not just the future of warfare, but human society itself. Achieving technological superiority and leadership in one or more of these areas will make China a true competitor to the United States. Achieving hegemony over all of these critical areas will make China an insurmountable superpower. In order
to achieve this goal, China is investing heavily in domestic innovation, but also in foreign investment to acquire technology, the recruitment of global talent, academic collaboration for research and development, and finally China's strong point: military and industrial espionage. So how is the United States preparing for this looming confrontation? First, as scary as China's ascension may seem it's important to remember that it is still running uphill against America. Since the end of the first cold war, the United States has influenced a new global order based on growing liberal democratic values. As we have seen in the global backlash against Russia, the new world order frowns on the autocracies and abuses of the old world- Vladimir Putin is a relic of the old world with no place in modern society, and with a unified voice the West has shouted him and his nation down, even going so far as to severely hurt themselves financially in order to punish Russian military aggression. This should be of grave concern to China's Xi Jinping and his Chinese Communist Party, as they too are relics of the old world. The uprisings in Hong Kong that lasted for months
are but a taste of the simmering tension just under the surface of Chinese society, and proof to the CCP of the corrupting influence of liberal western values. Should China follow in Russia's footsteps and engage the world with hostility, it too will quickly find itself a pariah and outcast nation, effectively crippling any bid to become a global leader. This is why it's so important for China to undermine western values. The United States remains the world leader in technological innovation, despite mounting pressure from China and beyond. But the US is far ahead in one important area of technology-
its ability to rapidly commercialize new and emerging technology on global markets. While Chinese technology grows in influence around the world, American companies are already globally established brands. China's modern problem is in convincing the world to buy more than just cheap manufactured goods from it.
US commercial success is also due to its global cultural domination. American brands are present in every country on earth, but so is its culture. With one of the most rapidly evolving cultures in the world, US culture can be hard to define or nail down- but cultural export instruments such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley remain unassailable by their Chinese counterparts. For instance, while China may have developed the massively popular Tiktok app, it wasn't until China pushed the app on the American marketplace and established relationships with American influencers that the app exploded in popularity. This is important, because military and economic might only count for so much, and the US has used culture to bridge ideological gaps with partner nations around the world.
Shared culture is the bedrock of strong strategic partnerships, and China has absolutely nothing of the like- except for its partnership with North Korea. Shared culture and shared values are the reason the US remains the leader of the free world, not because its military is the strongest. Culture is another problem for China in its ongoing confrontation against the US and the rest of the west, because one of China's biggest problems is in creating immigrant Chinese citizens. While over a million Chinese-Americans reside in America, only a few thousand American-Chinese have made their home in China. If China seeks to dominate future technologies by recruiting promising talent from around the world, it must be able to entice them not just financially, but also with a desire to make China their new home. This is a massive problem for China versus the US, which remains one of the most attractive destinations for the world's most talented due to not just economic opportunity, but its liberal democratic values.
Finally, China must not just triumph over the United States in future competition, but against the world- because outdoing the United States in one or more areas of technological innovation means little due to wide-reaching US alliances and partnerships. For America, a win by one of its allies is still a win for the US- while China must stand against the world completely alone. But how do the numbers stand today, what if conflict broke out tomorrow between the two military heavyweights? Currently the United States is ranked as the world's number one military power, with China in the number three spot. However, this is debatable, as given Russia's extremely poor performance in Ukraine we expect that China will climb to the number two spot by next year, dethroning Russia whom it seems, derives most of its power from its ability to threaten with nuclear weapons. However, poor Russian performance should deeply concern China, because just like Russia, the Chinese military is also completely untested against modern, capable foes.
While Russian forces were more than adequate to crush uprisings in Aleppo and Chechnya, Russian superiority in numbers and equipment meant very little when it went up against Ukraine's western-trained military. With China's last war being against Vietnam in the 70s- a conflict it ended up losing- China should be extremely concerned about facing the United States in battle, whom unlike China, is thoroughly tested in modern combat. Much like Russia, China has lacked a robust training regimen for its military, with exercises typically being highly scripted and mostly for the benefit of visiting dignitaries. This culture has begun to change within China, but the nation is yet to match the robust training schedule of the US military. Realistic training though isn't enough for the Chinese military, as it- also like Russia- must also contend with a legacy of corruption that has plagued its ranks for decades.
President Xi Jinping's massive anti-corruption effort has produced great results, but the service must still contend with many officers who hold rank due to the time-honored Chinese tradition of gifting, wherein a junior official gifts a senior official in exchange for promotion. Currently, the Chinese military numbers at 2 million strong, dwarfing the US military and its 1.39 million strong force. This gives China a numbers advantage, but the US retains a great deal of force multipliers that don't just even the playing field, but tip it decisively in its favor. Chief amongst these is a well-trained and well-equipped modern fighting force, while Chinese units vary widely in modernity. A hefty investment in precision weaponry, integrated forces, and superior sensor and tracking technologies make the US a lethal adversary even against a numerically superior foe.
Reserves will play a critical role in any Sino-American conflict, and both sides are nearly evenly matched with China having 510,000 ready reservists versus the US's 442,000. American reservists receive continual training of one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year, while training for Chinese reservists is improving, but still spotty. This provides the United States with a smaller reservist pool, but one that is more quickly capable of being introduced into the fight, while Chinese reservists will require longer training periods or risk being thrown into combat completely unprepared. The American defense budget dwarf's China's at 770 billion versus China's 250 billion. But that's not
telling the whole story. First, the US budget includes many costs for operations that would have nothing to do in case of war with China, such as funding for its 11 unified combatant commands spread out across the world. These combatant commands are responsible for general peacekeeping, and their presence is a globally stabilizing force- without them, local conflicts would quickly sprout and spiral out of control. For example, without US Central Command, Iran would quickly seek to neutralize regional adversaries such as Saudi Arabia, causing massive global disruption of oil and other trade that passes through the region.
Also, China does not count all of its military investments within its published budget report, cleverly hiding them within other non-military budgets. A large part of its nuclear modernization initiative for example is coming from funds outside of its official military budget. Lastly, because Chinese military equipment is sourced locally, it pays less for goods than the US does for its own equipment. That's because the standard of living is lower in China, with lower wages and less benefits which means cheaper production costs. When compared by purchasing power parity, China's budget is significantly closer to the US's than a first glance would lead one to believe.
Any war between the US and China will be waged at sea and in the air, making comparisons of the two side's air forces and navies of utmost importance. The US operates an air fleet of 13,247 aircraft, easily dwarfing the Chinese air fleet of 3,285. When it comes to fighter aircraft, the two sides are closer together though, with the US having 1,957 fighters versus China's 1,200. American air mobility absolutely dwarfs Chinese mobility though, with a transport fleet of 982 aircraft versus China's 286- understandable given that the US faces conflicts far from its own shores and China has little need to move its own forces significant distances. However, the massive advantage in airlift capability makes the US military much more flexible and agile than the Chinese military. Perhaps the most important distinction between the two air forces though is the number of special-mission aircraft, with the US operating 774 versus China's 114.
The US has placed a premium on equipping aircraft for everything from early warning to electronic and signals intelligence and anti-submarine warfare. The US dwarfs China in special-mission capabilities, and it's part of what makes the US Air Force and Navy so lethal. Unless a confrontation between the US and China takes place on Taiwan, attack helicopters won't figure into the equation. However, if they do, the US outnumbers China with 910 attack helicopters versus China's 281. Numbers only tell part of the story though, because the weapon systems used by both sides only further skew the advantage to the US. For air superiority, the United States fields the F-15 Eagle and F-18 Super Hornet. A fleet of 187
operational F-22s are unmatched by China, who is yet to field its own 5th generation fighter in any significant numbers. Adding to China's problems is the US's Rapid Raptor program, which aims to bring a sizable contingent of F-22s to any battle space in the world within 24 hours. China's competitor versus the Raptor is the J-20, which is equipped with inferior engines versus American planes, requiring the use of canards on the body of the plane. These canards and other obvious engineering flaws have led defense analysts to conclude that the J-20 has at best only a slightly smaller radar cross signature than a traditional 4th generation fighter. In fact, India claims that it has frequently observed and tracked Chinese J-20s with long-range radar. The rest of the Chinese air force varies widely in modernity, with a significant part of its air force still flying Cold War Russian made or Chinese licensed relics. While China would
initially put its most modern fighters, such as its J-16s, J-11s, and Su-30s into the fight first, once those have been downed it will be increasingly reliant on older and older planes. Meanwhile the United States doesn't just have a completely modern air fleet, but is adding dozens of 5th generation F-35s every year to its arsenal. The US Air Force now has over 280 F-35s it can bring to the fight, with an additional 157 being added a year across the various services. In a war where air power would be decisive, the US not only has the numbers advantage, but also the technological advantage. At sea, the US Navy is outnumbered by the Chinese Navy, with 484 vessels versus China's 777.
However, here numbers are once again only telling part of the story. The US operates 11 aircraft carriers versus China's 2, and American aircraft carriers can bring over 800 aircraft into the fight versus China's grand total of 70. China's inflated naval numbers take into account things like missile boats, of which it has 84, while the US only operates 10. In terms of tonnage, the US Navy has over twice the hardware of the Chinese navy- 4.6 million tons versus 2 million tons. A better way to compare the capabilities of the two fleets is to use a modern metric: battle force missiles. This is a count of the total number of missiles that a fleet has for use in combat
before requiring resupply. This includes anti-ship missiles, land-attack missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and torpedoes. Excluded from the count are short-range self-defense missiles like the US's SeaRam. In 2019, the US Navy had 11,834 battle force missiles versus China's 5,250. The gap is narrowing, but not significantly, with China adding fifteen more Type 055 cruisers with 112 missile cells and six torpedo tubes each throughout the 2020s.
That will increase total battle force missiles by 1,770- just over half of what the US fields. Under the surface, China has the advantage with 71 submarines versus the US's 68. However, Chinese submarines are mostly conventionally powered, while US subs are all nuclear powered. This makes US submarines much more robust and able to operate for longer, but also decreases their vulnerability while operating. Chinese submarines are also an order of magnitude louder than US submarines, with their Jin Class ballistic missile submarines having an acoustic signature of around 120 decibels, while American Virginia-class submarines have an acoustic signature of 95 decibels- which is just 5 decibels over background ocean noise at an average of 90 decibels. Submarine warfare has always been a weakness of China, and looks set to continue being so for the foreseeable future.
While the US clearly has the naval advantage, it's important to remember that China can concentrate most of its fleet into a Pacific war against America, while the US has naval commitments around the world. Even if it were to recall the bulk of its fleet for action in the Pacific, such an act would take from days to weeks to mature into a sizable transit of combat power into the theater. Realistically speaking, the US Navy maintains an edge over China but the two sides are very close to parity in terms of capabilities. Where the US advantage comes is in its ability to quickly replenish combat losses with well-trained crews and modern ships, while Chinese combat losses are not so easily replaced. Further honing America's advantage over China is its partnership with regional powers such as Japan and Australia, who would either allow the US to use their territory as bases of operation for war against China, or very likely join the conflict itself. A new
trilateral defense pact between the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia is even seeing the US building nuclear attack submarines for Australia on the condition that in case of war, it will join the effort against the People's Liberation Army Navy and air force. America's advantage in equipment and technology is sizable and looks set to remain so, but it's the US's global partnerships and championing of liberal values that present the greatest, likely insurmountable challenge for China. Until the Chinese Communist Party changes its core values, if it wishes to fight against America, it's picking a fight against most of the free world. Now go check out Could Taiwan Hold Off A Chinese Invasion, or click this other video instead!