Unfortunately for the United States, one of its greatest trading partners also happens to be one of its greatest adversaries. While the US has never officially been at war with China, it has in fact fought several proxy wars with it, including the Vietnam War as well as the Korean War. Neither of those two wars worked out too well for the United States. In this episode of The Infographics Show, we thought we would take a closer look at who would win if a war broke out between China and the United States of America.
In terms of financial resources, America’s military puts China’s military to shame. The annual defense budget of China is $147 billion, which is 2.1% of its GDP, while the annual defense budget of the United States is $664 billion, which is 2.4% of its GDP.
In terms of sheer manpower numbers, China clearly has the advantage. It has a population of 1.4 billion people, with 2,335,000 active military personnel. The US, on the other hand, has a total population of 321 million people, with 1.4 million people who are active front-line personnel.
Although a land war between China and America is unlikely, the two countries have almost an equal number of tanks (China: 9,150, U.S.: 8,484) and self-propelled guns (China: 1,710, U.S.: 1,934). China has far more towed artillery (6,246 to 1,499), but the U.S. has ten times the amount of armored fighting vehicles (4,788 to 41,062).
With regard to air power, currently the U.S. has a larger and more modern Air Force, with a total of 13,444 aircraft to China’s 2,942. Even if China builds 10,000 more planes, as it has pledged to do, American pilots will still have the upper hand in terms of training and support, though China has been improving its training programs and is developing new aircraft, including the J-20 and J-31, which will, in all likelihood, match up quite nicely with the US’s upcoming F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Because the seas are the likely theater for a war between China and America, it is vital that we take a closer look at both country’s naval power. The United States has a slight edge over China with 415 total ships compared to China’s 352 total ships. There are two major points of interest, however: The United States boasts 19 aircraft carriers against a SINGLE aircraft carrier for China. That said, China owns 21 Corvette warships against the United States’ ZERO.
It is highly unlikely that nuclear weapons would be employed by either of these countries, since the threat of “mutually assured destruction” is too great. However, nuclear weapons are still important when measuring up the strength of these war-fighting machines. In terms of nuclear warheads, the U.S. has an estimated 5,100 warheads on stand-by while China has a mere 260. These numbers are constantly changing due to an agreement between Russia and the US to reduce nuclear stockpiles. But perhaps a more important factor is delivery systems. Both countries have intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of sending nuclear weapons to strike cities across the Pacific, and both countries have submarine-based missiles, although the U.S.’s are far more advanced. The U.S. is also planning to station a defense system in South Korea capable of intercepting missiles fired from both North Korea and China. According to the DoD, however, China is responding by developing new offensive missiles as well as methods to counter ballistic missile defenses.
We must remember that almost every ground vehicle, aircraft, and naval unit needs fuel to be employed. China consumes 12 million barrels of oil a day and produces only 4.3 million barrels daily, with a 20 billion barrel oil reserve. The United States currently consumes 19 million barrels of oil a day, but produces 9 million barrels daily with a 37 billion barrel oil reserve.
One of the most important resource when it comes to war is allies. Fortunately for the US, it is allied with a number of China’s neighboring countries, including Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Having close relationships with those countries, not to mention bases in Japan, gives the U.S. more options and flexibility in the event of an outbreak of war. The United States boasts treaties that ally them with over 54 nations, while China has only 5 documented allies.
Experience also plays a big factor in the strength of a military and its commanders. The United States has been actively engaged in a land war for the last decade, allowing it to try out new systems and tactics, making it more agile and well-equipped. China, on the other hand, has not been involved in a war since 1979.
As we progress through the digital age, Counter-space and cyber capabilities are becoming a critical part of a nation’s strength. China has 70 military satellites used for communications, positioning and timing, navigation, and signals intelligence. It has also developed anti satellite capabilities, such as directed-energy weapons, satellite jammers, and anti satellite missiles. In many respects, China is far more advanced in these areas, and it is said that China frequently uses cyber espionage to steal military secrets from the US.
This has been a brief look at how the United States and China match-up against one another. Who do you think would win the war?