Chinese military spending topped $250 billion in 2018

Chinese military spending topped $250 billion in 2018

By Luke Vargas   
Chinese JH-7 bombers participate in a training exercise on April 25, 2019. Courtesy: Yang Pan/
Chinese JH-7 bombers participate in a training exercise on April 25, 2019. Courtesy: Yang Pan/

China's steadily rising military budget heralds an approaching bipolarity in which the U.S. may no longer the world's sole military superpower.

UNITED NATIONS – Increased American and Chinese defense budgets drove global military spending 2.6 percent higher in 2018, according to a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Thanks to new arms procurement programs rolled out by the Trump administration in 2017, U.S. spending jumped a full 4.6 percent to $649 billion dollars.

And on a global level, military spending now amounts to over 2% of global GDP, or $239 per person.

“These are vast sums.”

Keith Hartley is professor emeritus of economics at the University of York.

“We really are talking about large quantities of resources allocated to military spending – labor, factories, capital, machinery, research and development as well as land.”

While the report found global defense spending is now at Cold War levels, it’s China’s quarter-trillion-dollar defense budget, not Russia’s $61 billion, that’s changing the global landscape.

Carla Norrlof is an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

“1990: China’s share relative to the U.S. was 3%, and by 2006 it was 10%, by 2011 it’s 20% and today it’s nearly 40%. And I do think that does have global significance.”

Norrlof says one theory holds that a bipolar world with two military superpowers be more stable for global peace, but that’s not inevitable.

“There are also other theories of unipolarity – the Pax Americana – being the most peaceful, and once we shift out of that and depending on who that other power is and what their ambitions are, we’re gonna enter into very dangerous territory.”

In the meantime, Hartley says global defense spending should keep rising, thanks to an up to 10% annual increase in the real cost of modern military equipment.

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