Predictions of China’s Military in 2020 and 2030

By 2020, the actual—as opposed to announced–Chinese defense budget is estimated to rise to USD259 billion, up from USD143 billion in 2011. Russian spending will increase to USD108.3 billion in 2020, up from USD57.2 billion in 2011.

US spending is likely to decline to USD540 billion at the end of the decade, down from USD720 billion in 2011.

Chinese military spending might match that of the US by the 2030s but it will be decades before it rivals the United States as a military superpower, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Roger Cliff testified in front of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hearing on China’s Military Modernization and its Implications for the United States.

The huge technological edge the U.S. military has enjoyed over China is eroding. This is the result of China’s rapid economic growth and integration into the world economy, ever-increasing defense spending in China, and the “follower’s advantage” that results from the fact that it is easier to imitate the technological successes of others than to develop fundamentally new technologies. By my estimates, in 2020 the weaponry of China’s military forces will be roughly comparable to that of the U.S. military in 2000. One way to look at that is to say that even in 2020 China’s military will still be 20 years behind the U.S. military. Another way to look at it, however, is to ask how much more advanced the U.S. military will be in 2020 as compared to 2000.

The true U.S. advantage comes not from our high-tech weaponry but from the organization, people, training, and culture of our military. Here too, however, our advantage is eroding. The training of the Chinese military improves year by year and, according to my analysis, by 2020 the average Chinese soldier will be better educated than his or her American counterpart. To maintain our qualitative edge over China we not only need more advanced weaponry and better infrastructure, we also need to ensure that our military organizations are flexible and responsive, that the services are recruiting and retaining the best people and giving them the best training and education, and that they are fostering a culture based on performance and initiative, not one of caution and conformity.

The Diplomat has an analysis of China’s military shipbuilding capability

China’s military shipyards now are surpassing Western European, Japanese, and Korean military shipbuilders in terms of both the types and numbers of ships they can build. If Beijing prioritizes progress, China’s military shipbuilding technical capabilities can likely become as good as Russia’s are now by 2020 and will near current [2014] U.S. shipbuilding technical proficiency levels by 2030. China is now mass producing at least six classes of modern diesel-electric submarines and surface warships, including the new Type 052C “Luyang II” and Type 052D “Luyang III” destroyers now in series production.