Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The PLA Budget

China's official military budget buys more than it appears since China buys much of their military on their local market, where purchasing power parity (PPP) magnifies the dollar-denominated budget comparison with our spending. In addition, China's "defense" budget includes more than the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

This information from the 2014 DOD China report is interesting:

China’s internal security forces primarily consist of the People’s Armed Police (PAP), the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), and the PLA. The PAP is a paramilitary organization whose primary mission is domestic security. It falls under the dual command of the CMC and the State Council. Although there are different types of PAP units, such as border security and firefighting, the largest is internal security. PAP units are organized into “contingents” in each province, autonomous region, and centrally administered city. In addition, 14 PLA divisions were transferred to the PAP in the mid- to late- 1990s to form “mobile divisions” that can deploy outside their home province. The official budget for China’s internal security forces exceeds that of the PLA.

These would have secondary national defense missions. Note that part of the PAP consists of old-style infantry divisions of the PLA transferred to the PAP.

And note, too, that China--which doesn't really distinguish between foreign and domestic threats to their control they way we do--considers their armed military power to have a mission of defending the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from all threats, foreign and domestic.

So with other agencies and PPP considerations, China's defense budget in defense of the CCP is much larger than is often discussed. And there's the "civilian" Chinese coast guard, too, that is always prominent in sea disputes.

China estimates their defense budget at $119.5 billion. We estimate it as over $145 billion.

And this doesn't include foreign military purchases. If you apply PPP to China's defense budget as we estimate it, you could pretty much double it to $290 billion equivalent.

And if paramilitary internal security spending is more than the official defense budget, we can call it a cool $600 billion equivalent.

Plus foreign arms purchases.

If I see something that indicates my back-of-the-envelope math skills are lacking in this assessment, I'll revisit this.

Compare this to about $640 billion in American defense spending in the same year. Which includes operations in the ongoing war on terror. But you could add in some spending from the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons research and production costs, I imagine. I think Coast Guard budgets would be in Transportation, but unlike China's coast guard which would be available to fight us off China's coast, our Coast Guard will largely remain around our coast. So I wouldn't really add that in--unless China attempts to operate off of our coasts, too.

But don't tell me that China isn't building a credible military establishment--bolstered by geographic advantage in concentrating their power (they are close and we are far; and we have global responsibilities while China's are all local--not that I'd trade places with China, mind you).

If we can knit together all the separate military capabilities into a coherent military response, we and our allies retain superiority. But I don't assume China can't pick off weak ones from the herd.