Connect with us

Politics

Balance of Superpowers: Comparing the US and Chinese Armed Forces

Published

on

Note: to see the bigger version of this infographic, click here.
Balance of Superpowers: Comparing the US and Chinese Armed Forces

Balance of Superpowers: Comparing the US and Chinese Armed Forces

Note: to see the bigger version of this infographic, click here.

Whether China is busy championing trade deals outside of the US dollar, buying up some of the world’s biggest companies, taking over foreign housing markets, or building massive networks of nuclear or wind power grids, it is clear that the country is a world power to be reckoned with.

To be considered a true force, China also needs to be able to back up its economic and political might with a top notch military. Today’s infographic compares the armed forces of China with the United States.

In terms of military spending per capita, China is the new kid on the block. Although it has increased in recent years, China is still behind Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. However, the country does make up for it with in absolute terms by its sheer population. In terms of total military expenditures, China spends the second most worldwide with a total of approximately $216 billion per year, which is about one-third of the US.

In GDP terms, China spends about 2.1% of its annual GDP on military, and the United States spends 3.8%.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two superpowers is influence in other parts of the world. The United States has 133 military bases outside of its territory, and China has zero. More specifically, the United States has bases in multiple jurisdictions that surround China: South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Afghanistan, and Diego Garcia, a set of small islands in Indian Ocean.

Original graphic by: SCMP

22 Comments

War

Visualized: Top 15 Global Tank Fleets

Heavily armed and armored, the modern tank is a versatile and mobile weapons platform, and a critical piece of contemporary warfare. 

Published

on

Teaser image for an dot matrix chart of the top 15 global tank fleets, broken down by main battle tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and storage, showing that the U.S. is number one, by a wide margin.

The Top 15 Global Tank Fleets

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Heavily armed and armored, the modern tank is a versatile and mobile weapons platform, and a critical piece of contemporary warfare.

This visualization shows the top 15 global tank fleets, using data from the 2024 Military Balance report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Let’s take an in-depth look at the top three fleets:

1. United States

As the world’s pre-eminent military power, it’s perhaps no surprise that the United States also has the largest tank fleet, by a wide margin.

In total, they have just over 45,000 armored fighting vehicles in operation, along with 2,640 main battle tanks (MBTs), and 12,800 vehicles in storage, of which 2,000 are main battle tanks.

CategoryVehiclesGlobal rank
Main battle tanks2,6404
Armored reconnaissance1,7451
Infantry fighting vehicles3,2623
Armored personnel carriers10,6441
Amphibious assault vehicles1,4011
Armored utility vehicles28,4451
Storage12,8001
Total60,9371

The U.S. is internalizing the lessons from the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, where Western-supplied anti-tank weapons and massed Ukrainian artillery have been cutting Russian tanks to pieces. As a result, the U.S. recently canceled an upgrade of the M1 Abrams in favor of a more ambitious upgrade.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is nervously eyeing a more confident China and a potential clash over Taiwan, where air and naval forces will be critical. However, a recent war game showed that Taiwanese mechanized ground forces, kitted out with American-made tanks and armored fighting vehicles, were critical in keeping the island autonomous.

2. Russia

According to Oryx, a Dutch open-source intelligence defense website, at time of writing, Russia has lost almost 2,800 main battle tanks since invading Ukraine. Considering that in the 2022 edition of the Military Balance, Russia was estimated to have 2,927 MBTs in operation, those are some hefty losses.

Russia has been able to maintain about 2,000 MBTs in the field, in part, by increasing domestic production. Many defense plants have been taken over by state-owned Rostec and now operate around the clock. Russia is also now spending a full third of their budget on defense, equivalent to about 7.5% of GDP.

At the same time, they’ve also been drawing down their Soviet-era stockpiles, which are modernized before being sent to the front. Just how long they can keep this up is an open question; their stockpiles are large, but not limitless. Here is what their storage levels look like:

Category20232024YOY change
Main battle tanks5,0004,000-20.0%
Armored reconnaissance1,000100-90.0%
Infantry fighting vehicles4,0002,800-30.0%
Armored personnel carriers6,0002,300-61.7%
Total16,0009,200-42.5%

3. China

China holds the third overall spot and top place globally for the number of main battle tanks in operation. Untypically, the People’s Liberation Army has no armored vehicles in storage, which perhaps isn’t surprising when you consider that China has been rapidly modernizing its military and that stockpiles usually contain older models.

China also has one of the world’s largest fleets of armored fighting vehicles, second only to the United States. Breaking down that headline number, we can also see that they have the largest number of light tanks, wheeled guns, and infantry fighting vehicles. 

CategoryVehiclesGlobal rank
Main battle tanks4,7001
Light tanks1,3301
Wheeled guns1,2501
Infantry fighting vehicles8,2001
Armored personnel carriers3,6045
Airborne combat vehicles1802
Amphibious assault vehicles9902
Total20,2543

This is equipment that would be integral if China were to make an attempt to reunify Taiwan with the mainland by force, where lightly armored mechanized units need to move with speed to occupy the island before Western allies can enter the fray. It’s worth noting that China also has one of the world’s largest fleets of amphibious assault vehicles.

End of the Tank?

Many commentators at the outset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, were quick to predict the end of the tank, however, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the tank’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

With the U.S. and China both developing remote and autonomous armored vehicles, tanks could be quite different in the future, but there is nothing else that matches them for firepower, mobility, and survivability on the modern battlefield today.

Continue Reading
Voronoi, the app by Visual Capitalist. Where data tells the story. Download on App Store or Google Play

Subscribe

Popular