Home > Gospodarka i Polityka > A review of China’s changing military capacity in the light of the armies of Russia, India, US and Japan, 1989 – 2013

A review of China’s changing military capacity in the light of the armies of Russia, India, US and Japan, 1989 – 2013

This article is an attempt to answer the question of the role of People’s Republic of China in the process of formation of political reality in Asia and Pacific. China aspires to become the regional superpower and to play a more important role in the world. These assumptions will be demonstrated in the following analysis of an increasing of China’s military capacity in comparison to the military power of the remaining four main actors in this region in the course of the last quarter of this century. The selection of the countries aims to show Beijing’s capacity to form a countercoalition directed against the US and Japan cooperation on the Pacific. According to most prognoses this region will play a crucial role within the next few decades. Therefore, a confrontation between the US and China seems to be inevitable. The end of the Cold War in 1989 and the demise of the world’s bipolar division of power along with it is a perfect starting point for the investigation, while 2013 will mark the end in the time-frame of this study as military expenditure was not affected by the war in the Ukraine. If it were to extend to 2014, the image would be distorted because both Russia and the US increased their military expenses as a result of their growing involvement in Europe at the expense of other regions. The first and second chapter present data on defence expenditure and army size of each of the above mentioned countries. Data included in this article come from Polish and English specialist websites, magazines as well as specialist literature.

Military expenditure in China, United States, Russia and India: comparative analysis

This chapter deals with the military expenditure of the five countries in question. Following are two tables (Table 1 and 2) depicting the defence spending data as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) given in relative numbers. These data can also be viewed in the form of a line chart in Figure 1, which provides a more comprehensive outlook. Figure 2 details the specific sums, in absolute numbers, that were spent on defence. These numbers are then graphically charted and presented in Figures 3 and 4. The first features the data for all the five countries, whereas the later, in order to put the existing differences between remaining countries in a better perspective, excludes the US from the picture. All the outlays are displayed in bln USD and calculated on the average exchange rate basis in 2011, which will allow us to draw an accurate and reliable comparison. The chapter ends with an analysis of the aforementioned dataset. It may be useful as a starting point for a potential discussion and further studies. The source for these data is Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. They are available on the SIPRI’s website.

Table 1: Military expenditure data as percentage of GDP: China, United States, Japan, Russian and India

China USA Japan Russia India
1989 2,5% 5,7% 0,9% N/A 3,5%
1990 2,5% 5,5% 0,9% N/A 3,2%
1991 2,4% 5,3% 0,9% N/A 3,0%
1992 2,5% 4,7% 0,9% 5,5% 2,8%
1993 2,0% 4,8% 1,0% 5,3% 2,9%
1994 1,7% 4,5% 1,0% 5,9% 2,8%
1995 1,7% 3,8% 1,0% 4,4% 2,7%
1996 1,7% 3,5% 1,0% 4,1% 2,6%
1997 1,6% 3,3% 1,0% 4,5% 2,7%
1998 1,7% 3,1% 1,0% 3,3% 2,8%
1999 1,9% 3,0% 1,0% 3,4% 3,1%
2000 1,9% 3,0% 1,0% 3,7% 3,1%
2001 2,1% 3,0% 1,0% 4,1% 3,0%
2002 2,2% 3,4% 1,0% 4,4% 2,9%
2003 2,1% 3,7% 1,0% 4,3% 2,8%
2004 2,1% 3,9% 1,0% 3,8% 2,8%
2005 2,0% 4,0% 1,0% 3,7% 2,8%
2006 2,0% 3,9% 1,0% 3,6% 2,5%
2007 2,1% 4,0% 0,9% 3,5% 2,3%
2008 2,0% 4,3% 0,9% 3,5% 2,6%
2009 2,2% 4,8% 1,0% 4,3% 2,9%
2010 2,1% 4,8% 1,0% 3,9% 2,7%
2011 1,8% 4,6% 1,0% 3,5% 2,4%
2012 2,0% 4,4% 1,0% 3,9% 2,5%
2013 2,0% 3,8% 1,0% 4,1% 2,5%

Source: own elaboration with data from SIPRI Military Expenditure Database: http://milexdata.sipri.org/, [accessed: 13 June 2015].


Figure 1: Military expenditure data as percentage of GDP: China, United States, Japan, Russian and India


Source: own elaboration with data from SIPRI Military Expenditure Database: http://milexdata.sipri.org/, [accessed: 13 June 2015].


Table 2: Data for military expenditure by country in bln USD: China, United States, Japan, Russian and India

China USA Japan Russia India
1989 18,336 551,839 46,592 N/A 19,093
1990 19,820 527,174 47,802 N/A 18,807
1991 20,833 463,013 49,399 N/A 17,561
1992 25,317 489,226 52,486 62,300 16,783
1993 23,454 463,504 54,607 54,400 18,956
1994 22,432 435,273 56,181 51,400 19,040
1995 23,059 411,675 56,827 33,800 19,611
1996 25,424 389,287 57,124 32,000 19,966
1997 26,335 387,258 56,988 34,900 22,102
1998 29,901 378,533 57,725 20,800 23,060
1999 34,454 379,466 59,430 23,100 26,799
2000 37,040 394,155 60,288 31,100 27,653
2001 45,422 397,334 60,250 33,700 28,616
2002 52,832 446,142 60,701 37,300 28,528
2003 57,390 507,781 61,460 39,100 29,165
2004 63,560 553,441 61,201 40,870 33,879
2005 71,496 579,831 61,288 46,446 36,054
2006 83,928 588,837 60,892 51,404 36,225
2007 96,782 604,292 60,574 55,954 36,664
2008 106,640 649,003 59,140 61,484 41,585
2009 128,734 701,048 59,735 64,504 48,963
2010 136,239 720,282 59,003 65,807 49,159
2011 147,268 711,338 60,452 70,238 49,634
2012 159,620 618,681 59,571 80,995 49,459
2013 171,381 640,221 59,431 84,864 49,091

Source: own elaboration with data from SIPRI Military Expenditure Database: http://milexdata.sipri.org/, [accessed: 13 June 2015].



Figure 2: Data for military expenditure by country in bln USD: China, United States, Japan, Russian and India


Source: own elaboration with data from SIPRI Military Expenditure Database: http://milexdata.sipri.org/, [accessed: 13 June 2015].

Figure 3: Data for military expenditure by country in bln USD: China, Japan, Russian and India


Source: own elaboration with data from SIPRI Military Expenditure Database: http://milexdata.sipri.org/, [accessed: 13 June 2015].


The analysis of the presented body of data reveals some interesting points, i.e. in the first decade since the end of the Cold War military spending both in the United States and in the Russian Federation was at sharp failing trend both in terms of relative and absolute value. The underlying reasons for this downward trend, however, were quite different in both countries. Russia, which inherited the bulk of the armed forces after the decline of the USSR, entered a period of deep economic crisis that lasted throughout 1990s. In the US, on the other hand, the end of the Cold War brought a pervasive optimism, which was based on the victory over the former Soviet Block and on the fact of having become the first superpower in the world. Scientists and publishers also contributed to this mood expressing the opinions that it was the final and decisive victory of the democratic liberal model, which put an end to all other conflicts. The beginning of the new century, however, brought about a sudden change in the situation. In 1999, after Vladimir Putin took the position as Prime Minister and Russia invaded Chechnya, the Russian military spending returned to the rising trend and has not stopped yet. Within the first year since those events the Russian military spending was increased by more than 34%. An overall growth in military spending in Russia in the period since the fall of the USSR until 2013 was above 36%. In the US the falling trend, as far as defence budget is concerned, was reverted as a result of WTC and Pentagon terrorist attacks in 2001. The military expenditure level of 1989 was reached within 3 years, but the total increase in defence outlays budget in the examined period was around 16%. The defence spending to GDP ratio has been in a steady decline since 2013, when it dropped to 3,8% in comparison to 5,5% in 1989. However, it is still far from the 3% of GDP at the turn of the centuries. This drop can be explained by the economic troubles in the US and budget cuts that they brought on the one hand and the turnabout in the US policy under the Barack Obama’s presidency on the other. Though, the Russian aggression against the Ukraine, which started in 2014, most likely will not only induce an increase in defence budget of the US, but also will prompt their involvement in Europe. Russia’s defence expenditure exceeded the ceiling of 4% of GDP in 2013, but was still significantly lower than in 1992. In Japan the military budget, limited to 1% of GDP, increased in this period by approximately 27,5%, which makes it almost 12 per cent points more than in the US, but still less than about 10 per cent points compared to Russia. In India military expenditure in 1989 was minimally higher than in the recent years in comparison with China and amounted only to 40% of Japan’s outlays on its army and to 30% of Russian’s (in 1992), which gives less than 3,5% of the US military budget. India allotted a little more than 2,5% of GDP to army every year, which adds up to more than 150% growth in the period under consideration and shows a constant rising trend. It is worth noting in this case that there has been a steady increase in the dynamics of expenditure growth and in overseas armaments purchases. The prognoses are that roughly 100 bln USD will be allocated for this purpose in the next 15 years.[1] The most interesting study case, however, is China. Although their military spending to GDP ratio is lower than that of other countries except for Japan (amounts to approximately 2,0%), due to the rapid economic growth China has managed to expand its military budget more than eightfold since 1989. What further attracts our attention is the question of how China compares to other countries in this group in terms the military outlays. In 1989 it ranked last out of the five countries under consideration, but as soon as 2004 China overtook Japan and thus became the world’s second-largest country by defence budget. At the same time the gap between China and the US is ever decreasing: in 1989 the PRC’s defence budget constituted barely 3% of the budget of Pentagon, whereas in 2013 it accounted for almost 27%. The difference, however, in the defence outlays between the two countries is still significant, which to a large degree is as a result of the fact that the purchase and maintenance costs of hi-tech military equipment as well other personnel-related costs in the US are far higher than in China. The latter’s armament consists of old and rather obsolete equipment, which nevertheless turns out working well in an environment lacking in high technology solutions. Likewise, the Chinese military, though numerous, in terms of military training is not yet a match for militaries of the Western countries. It is a separate issue that China notoriously uses reverse engineering to cut costs of developing new technologies and modernizing the existing ones. Keeping these points in mind, we can move to the actual analysis. The fact that China’s military budget has grown by 830% in the last quarter of the century reflects the scale of the rearmament and modernization process that is taking place in the RPC. The reason for this military build-up, as it was mentioned earlier, is Beijing’s aspiration to play an important role in Asia and Pacific, but also at the world’s level, to which purpose a modern army, capable of operating in any place, is indispensable. Interestingly enough, the PRC as the only country is both one of the largest importers and exporters of armaments.[2]

Land, naval and air force structures of China, United States, Japan, Russia and India: a comparative analysis

Earlier pages feature an analysis of the military outlays of the five countries under consideration in the period of 1989 – 2013. Following, in the form of tables, are presented data on firepower at the disposal of each of the countries. Information included in this section come from Polish and English specialist websites as well as Polish specialist and informative press. It has to be pointed out, however, that just like in the case of the data on the defence expenditure, these numbers only indicate the estimated values and therefore one has to remember that the actual numbers may vary from them. This is particularly true in case of the PRC and Russia.

Table 3: Analytical display of data on manpower and land systems in China, United States, Japan, Russian and India

China USA Japan Russia India
Active frontline personnel 2 333 000 1 400 000 247 000 766 000 1 325 000
Active reserved personnel 2 300 000 1 100 000 58 000 2 485 000 2 143 000
Tanks 9 150 8 848 678 15 398 6 464
Armoured Fighting vehicles 4 788 41 062 2 850 31 298 6 704
Artillery 9 726 4 564 599 8 418 7 706

Source: own elaboration with data from Global Firepower: http://www.globalfirepower.com, [accessed: 10 June 2015].


Table 4: Analytical display of data on airpower in in China, United States, Japan, Russian and India

China USA Japan Russia India
Aircraft 2 860 13 892 1 613 3 429 1 905
Helicopters 1 104 7 116 863 1 582 604

Source: own elaboration with data from Global Firepower: http://www.globalfirepower.com, [accessed: 10 June 2015].



Table 5: Analytical display of data on naval power in China, United States, Japan, Russian and India

China USA Japan Russia India
Aircraft Carriers 1 10 + 8* 2** 1 2
Submarines 67 72 16 58 15
Cruisers 0 22 0 6 0
Destroyers 25 62 43 12 9
Frigates 47 10 0 4 15
Corvettes 23 0 0 74 25

* – (LHD)

** – (DDH)

Source: own elaboration with data from Global Firepower: http://www.globalfirepower.com, [accessed: 10 June 2015].

Before turning to the actual analysis it is important to highlight the quality vs. quantity relation of the firepower of each of the countries, e.g.: the United States and Japan possess tanks of 3rd generation, fighter aircraft of 4th and adv. 4th generation. The US has in addition, as the only country in the world, aircraft of 5th generation. The firepower of India consists of adv. 2nd and 3rd generation tanks in proportion 2:1. The PRC and Russia, in turn, still base their firepower on vehicles of 1st, 2nd and adv. 2nd generation with the relatively insignificant inclusion of 3rd generation vehicles. Air forces are mainly comprised of 2nd and 3rd generation aircraft (the PRC has substantial number of 1st generation aircraft in their active service) as well as not more than 300 aircraft copies of different 4th generation models and insignificant adv. 4th generation copies. In order to illustrate the difference in military strength between new and old generation armaments, it is worth pointing to both Gulf Wars, where Iraq’s armoured vehicles units consisted of export versions of 1st, 2nd and adv. 2nd generation Soviet ones, while the aircraft operated by Iraqi Air Force belonged to 2nd and 3rd generation. The United Nation forces in the First Gulf War were comprised of 2nd and 3rd generation tanks (with the predominance of the latter) and aircraft of 3rd and 4th generation. The armaments at Iraq’s disposal during the Gulf War II in 2003 belonged to the same generation as in the previous war, while the coalition troops operated modernized tanks and armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) of 3rd generation and 4th and adv. 4th generation aircraft.

Analysing the data included in Table 1 we come to the conclusion that there is not a simple correlation between military spending and the size of the army. As far as military manpower is concerned (active frontline and active reserve military personnel combined) China undisputedly takes the lead. India and Russia are ranked second and third respectively. Interestingly, the United States, the country with the highest military expenditure, has a considerably smaller army in terms of manpower. This observation is in accordance with what was said earlier about the American army, i.e. the personnel expenditure together with the high cost of production and maintenance of military equipment generate the high military outlays. This is also true for the Japanese Self-Defence Forces. The amounts of tanks possessed by the US and China are similar, but they vary in terms of technological advancement. The tanks and combat vehicles in possession of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army are mainly copies of Russian models from the 1950s and the 1960s and also their local modernized versions (Type 85, 90, 96, etc.). The acquisitions from Russia, such as T-80, T-72, BMP-3 IFV along with S-300 PMU-1 or Tor-M1 air defence systems as well as barrelled and rocket artillery have improved the condition of the PRC’s army. At the same time, thanks to the assembly lines provided by Russia, China also acquired wheeled armoured personnel carriers (APC) BTR-80 and other Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) BMP-3.[3] In turn, the American Army and the United States Marine Corps operate constantly modernized equipment that dates back to the last decade of the Cold War. Looking at the data in Table 3 one can notice that the ratio of APCs in the US army to Chinese army is almost 8,5:1. Russia inherited from the USSR a lot of tanks and AFVs. There are still a lot of tanks of 1st and 2nd generation in use in the Russian army, but compared to China, the proportion of adv. 2nd and 3rd generation tanks to those of older generations compares favourably. The Indian Armed Forces have relatively modern vehicles (adv. 2nd and 3rd generation), mostly of Russian origins, e.g. T-90. The Japanese Self-Defence Forces, despite the fact that size-wise are rather small compared to the rest, are technologically very advanced, in which they catch up with the leading armies of the US and Russia.

The PRC’s army has more than 9500 artillery systems, which is comparable to this kind of weaponry possessed by Russian and Indian armies that have around 8400 and 7700 respectively. Chinese barrelled and rocket artillery weapons that were designed during World War II rather ineffective in confrontation with an enemy that gives priority to the mobility and accuracy. Therefore, there has been a mass production of Chinese self-propelled models of artillery pieces and MLRSs – available both in light and heavy as well as wheeled and tracked variants.[4] [5] The Indian army, in spite of having a far more modern artillery park, also have problems with the mobility of their artillery sub-units. This is because the towed units constitute 90% of all their available firepower. The Russians and the Americans possess large quantities of self-propelled guns and MLRSs coming from the period of the Cold War and also, but in fewer numbers, towed guns. Compared to other countries, Japanese artillery is rather small in proportion to the overall size of the army, but one has to remember that, as in the case of the US army, it is based on modern technology. It is true not only for the guns or launchers themselves, but also for ammunition, which is suited for multipurpose tasks.

The analysis of the data on air force size (Table 4) shows that the US greatly outnumber other countries as far as their aircraft is concerned, e.g. they have more rotorcraft that the remaining countries altogether. But in addition to quantitative they also have technological advantage over other countries, which combined with the network of military bases, scattered throughout the world, makes their air forces even more effective. The predominant position of their air forces is also complimented by the largest in the world aircraft carrier fleet. The number of combat aircraft possessed by the Russian Federation is four times smaller than that of the US. In addition to this, Russian air forces are limited its own territory and the territory of a few other countries, with which they are in friendly terms. This is why for the last couple of years the RF under the rule of Vladimir Putin has been striving to rebuild the capacity to operate globally. When they got involved in the Ukrainian conflict, however, many of their allies started to approach them with extra caution. Chinese Air Force is smaller than Russian and it also has less helicopters. Moreover, China’s air fleet is one of the oldest among the countries under consideration. The basic fighter plane used by the PRC’s Air Force is J-7. It is a Chinese copy of the MiG-21[6] designed in 1950s. The situation is even worse with regard to their rotorcraft. It was not earlier than 1990s when China commenced the production of the Z-9, a copy of French Dauphin. On top of that, within 15 years the Chinese only managed to manufacture 50 machines of this type.[7] The rest of the helicopters the PRC acquires in small numbers from the all over the world. Since the last decade of the previous century China has been engaged in trade with Russia on a large scale. This is where have supplied themselves with military aircraft, including helicopters. Already in 1992 the two countries signed a contract for 26 multirole aircraft (SU-27) along with the fittings and training programmes for the pilots. In 1995 and 1996 other 22 to 42 aircraft were purchased, but this time, together with the manufacture licence for the next 200 copies in China. Three years later another contract worth 1,8 bln USD was signed for 40 SU-30MKKs – an improved version of the former model. In 2001 China spent 2 bln USD to purchase 45 of these fighters. In addition, the PLA came into possession of new air-to-air missiles, Il-76 aircraft (both transport and AWACS versions), bombers Tu-22 and helicopter Mi-17 and Ka-27 as well as air-to-air refuelling aircraft.[8] Apart from the fruitful cooperation with the RF that culminated with the already mentioned manufacturing license for SU-27 production, worth noting are also the supplies of radars and jets as well as technological support, e.g. as in building the indigenous J-10 fighters.[9] This cooperation was formally confirmed in the memorandum signed by both countries in 1996. Russia resolved to provide aid to its Southern neighbour in the field of military development and modernization.[10] In comparison, the India Air Force, though smaller, is more modern than Chinese and also limited to regional capacity. The Indian air industry struggles with building its own hi-tech aircraft and consequently has to resort to overseas purchases, e.g. from France[11] and other countries – for instance the unsuccessful 5th generation fighter project run jointly with Russia. Japan has at its disposal a large number of modern aircraft that technologically is close to that of the US Air Force. It can also be operated around the globe thanks to the network of allied infrastructure.

Finally we can turn to the most important type of armed forces in the context of Asia and Pacific, i.e. the navy. In the first place, however, some comments with regard to the level of their technological advancement must be made. The World War II made it clear that aircraft carriers are the kinds of warship that secures domination on the seas and oceans. This type of warship, however, is very expensive owing to high construction and maintenance costs. They require equally expensive aircraft groups and carrier battle groups consisted of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines and auxiliary ships. Their purpose is to enable a quick and decisive force projection at any waterbody, thus ensuring national security. At the present time only the US can afford a large and effective carrier strike group (CSG). In the USSR the stress was put on the submarine forces as it was the only way the Soviets could counterbalance the domination of American aircraft carriers. As to other types of warship, they mainly played a defensive and auxiliary role. The Soviets have never managed to build as many aircraft carriers as NATO states. Nevertheless, it has to be recognized that the Soviet shipbuilding industry, just like the whole military-industrial complex, received sufficient funding and was at a high level. After the decline of the Soviet Union the navy turned out to be the main cause for the catastrophic economic situation and military cuts. The shipbuilding industry, due to lack of domestic and foreign demand, has been affected the most and at the present time is in a very bad condition. The fact that Russia had to buy two light aircraft carriers from France (type Mistral)[12] to be able to build next two on its own is sufficient to illustrate the deep crisis of its shipbuilding industry. As a result of the permanent underinvestment of the last two decades Russian fleet consists of fewer ships than the Soviet fleet at the end of its history. Technologically the majority of Russian warship dates back to 1970s and 1980s. It is worth pointing out that, since the fall of the USSR, the first bigger ship entirely designed and built by the Russians was Steregushchy-class corvette launched in 2007.[13] What is more, many Russian warships are most probably in a poor technical condition, for instance the only Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, that due to insufficient funds to undergo the repair has not been operated since 2011.[14] The Chinese fleet, in turn, in terms of technology is on a par with the Soviet fleet from 1970s, yet in the recent years it has undergone a dynamic modernization – either through the means of its own industry or through the overseas acquisitions. [15][16][17] The Indian navy is relatively modern and most of its ships come from the turn of the XXI century. Although some of the ships were purchased abroad, most of them were built in India, yet based on the Russian technology, e.g. Akula and Kilo-class submarines or the second of the Indian carriers: Vikramaditya.[18] The American aircraft carriers, in the number of 10 at the present time, are sometimes called “supercarriers” because of their enhanced firepower and the ability to perform universal tasks. The Nimitz-class nuclear-powered carriers are fitted to accommodate up to 130 aircraft of different type selected on the basis of the missions they are to perform. For comparison, the only Russian carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is capable of operating up to 30 light multi-role aircraft and helicopters, while its Chinese equivalent, Varyag (originally Liaoning), can accommodate around 20 aircraft more. The firepower the Indian light carrier, Viraat (former British Hermes), is comparable to the Russian ship. Each out of the eight USS Wasp-class carriers, also belonging to the US Navy, can carry a US Marine infantry battalion and an aircraft group. For this reason they are considered equivalent to light aircraft carries in other countries and can be used successfully as force projection warships or as a means of political pressure. There is no doubt that aircraft carriers will continue to be the most important part of the US Navy in the future, though, their total number is unlikely to diverge from the current one. Since the Chinese are trying to catch up with the US military power, it is highly probable that they have already started the construction of another carrier, which will be the second in their possession (after Liaoning), and that within the next 10 or 20 years they will have more of them.[19] In contrast, it is unlikely that we will see new aircraft carriers in the Russian Navy and, owing to insufficient financial resources, the Kuznetsov’s future is also uncertain. Until recently it seemed that the only carriers in the Russian Navy would be light assault vessels Mistral of French provenance, but the Ukrainian crisis and the subsequent sanctions imposed on Russia may hinder or entirely stop them from being incorporated into the Russian fleet. As for Japan, the possession of aircraft carriers is barred by the constitution, and yet four light carriers (Hyuga and Izumo-class)[20] are planned to be brought into service; officially these vessels are going to be classified as helicopter destroyers, though. There is no doubt, however, that they could serve as an effective platform for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft such as F-35 that Japan has ordered from the US. Thus, they can act as small aircraft carriers with the potential close to Russian and Indian warships. The second pillar of the contemporary navy rests on submarines. Although nowadays there are many types and sub-types of this kind of ships, they can be grouped into categories depending on their purpose, i.e.: ballistic missile submarine and attack submarines. The former still constitute one element of the nuclear triad both in the US and in the RF, and to a smaller extent, also in China. There are 14 American and probably 12 Russian submarines in active service. Both fleets originated during the Cold War and both of them are supposed to be rearmed so that the old ships are replaced by 12 new ones.[21] [22] Attack submarines are essentially used in different ways by the US and Russian navies. The American nuclear submarines are largely used to protect their own sea routes and passages as well as nuclear-armed ships and groups of aircraft carriers against the enemy submarines. Russian warships in the first place are designed to protect the underwater fleet carrying nuclear missiles and strike at ship groups – in particular at aircraft carriers and supply lines of the potential enemy. In all likelihood, Russian attack submarines are also affected by financial difficulties that trouble the whole navy and therefore it would be logically to assume that some out of the ships officially in active service are not in fact combat-ready. The military personnel that operate them, likewise, are unlikely to be trained adequately. The Chinese fleet, although outnumbers the Russian one, is still largely based on obsolete and conventionally powered vessels and therefore their operational capacity in the contemporary world is limited. It has to be said, however, that since the beginning of XXI century also this part of the Chinese Navy has been constantly modernized and in the near future it can be expected that the diesel-electric driven vessels will be replaced with new, nuclear-powered ones of their own production. The advantage of the Chinese Navy over its Russian counterpart is certainly its well-trained personnel. This is the result of more funds flowing to the Chinese fleet, which will also facilitate to a considerable degree the transition from the old to the new generation ships in the coming years. In terms of size Japanese and Indian navies do not stand out from each other. There are significant differences between their vessels, though. The Japanese underwater forces comprise of modern ships with conventional propulsion systems of their own design, whereas the Indian Navy is made up out of nuclear-powered vessels from the middle 80s that were bought from Russia. According to Indian, Japanese and Chinese maritime doctrines their navies will have the defensive role, i.e. they will protect their own coastlines and supply routes.

Other important categories of vessels are cruisers and destroyers. They will be examined together as their purpose in the fleet is essentially alike and depends on the strategic, operational and tactical needs. The US Navy employs 83 rocket cruisers and destroyers altogether. This modern fleet built in the late 1970s and early 1980s fills a range of roles, such as defending aircraft carriers against missile attacks, fighting enemy submarines and supporting land units in ground warfare (with their artillery and missiles armaments). It is also planned to employ them as a part of anti-missile attack network. Japan built all its 44 destroyers by itself, but to a large extent they are based on American design projects and their navigational and combat systems. The first of these vessels were launched in the 1980s, while the newest come from the first decade of this century. The older ships, similarly as their American counterparts, undergo systematic modernizations, which aims to ensure their lengthy and effective service. The destroyers in the Japanese Self-Defence Forces serve of course a defensive purpose, which means they protect supply routes, harbours and provide a protection against aircraft and missile attacks on Japan’s islands. It is important for this study to note that smaller warships, such as frigates, intended to fight submarines are also classified as destroyers. As seen in Table 5, the number of destroyer and cruisers is far smaller in China than in the US and Japan. These vessels come chiefly from the 1960 and 1970, but in case of Russia they have not been modernized since the fall of the communism – naturally because of insufficient funds. By the means of necessity they are employed as flagships and, as the only vessels in China, have the capacity of global force projection. The defence of Chinese oil and gas supply routes far from Chinese borders is largely dependent on these ships. The Republic of India has 8 destroyer-class warships intended to defend both their harbours against submarines and other allied ships against aircraft attacks.

Frigates and corvettes, that constitute other categories of warships, have the function of defending their coastline and convoys in case of attempts to impose naval blockades. Their main advantages is a low production and maintenance cost, and in this respect, they compare favourably to larger vessels like destroyers and cruisers. Large numbers of these ships, as can be reckoned from the data in the tables, are in possession of China, Russia and India. In all these countries ensuring an incessant access to harbours is a matter of utmost importance as harbours are for them “a window into the world”. Numerous small vessels in case of the Russian Navy are also a means of protecting their territorial waters on a lower budget. Corvettes and patrol boats are then a cheaper alternative to larger vessels. This kind of warships, on the other hand, is by and large new compared to the rest of the fleet. Corvettes are in addition one of the Russian main export products, on which there is heavy demand among the countries that seek inexpensive, but efficient ways of keeping their inshore waters safe. Many of these ships went to India; where they sail along with costal defend ships build in their own shipyards. In turn, China has only recently achieved sufficient technological level to switch their production from light ships to destroyers and cruisers. Finally, in case of Japan, as it has been mentioned above, frigates and corvettes are regarded as destroyer-class ships.


In the first chapter it has been shown that Chinese military expenditure has been rapidly increasing in the course of the last quarter of the century, in particular, if compared to other countries. In the period under consideration the Chinese military budget has grown by eight-fold, whereas in Russia, the US and Japan the increase in military spending has been rather symbolic. Beijing invests in development of new maritime and air fleets to close the gap to other countries and thus expanding their operational capacity far beyond their inshore waters. It is an indispensable condition in building up one’s position not only as a local power, but also as a country that matters at the world’s level. At the same time the US have find it more and more difficult to finance their army. The ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine and war with the Islamic State is forcing the US to get involved in many regions of the world simultaneously, which put an extra strain the Pentagon’s budget. It is undoubtedly a chance for China to reinforce its regional and global position. The latest events, i.e. creating the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank[23] or coming up with the New Silk Road initiative demonstrates that China wants to be more and more important player on the global scene and is determined to adopt a more antagonistic policy towards the US to attain this objective. A dynamic built-up of China’s armed forces indicates that before long it will potentially be ready to pose a challenge for the US in the military field.


– I. Topolski, “Stosunki chińsko – rosyjskie”, in Chiny w stosunkach międzynarodowych, ed. K. Iwańczuk, A. Ziętek, (Lublin 2003).

– Ł. Pacholski, „Hindusi odbierają pierwsze zmodernizowane Mirage 2000 i zamawiają Rafaele”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 5 (2015).

– Ł. Pacholski, “Niszczyciel śmigłowcowy Hyuga”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 5 (2009).

– Ł. Pacholski, “SSBN X czyli zmierzch Ohio”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 2 (2013).

– M. Magierowski,”Panowie Życia i śmierci”, Do Rzeczy, 4 (2013).

– T. Grotnik,”Mistrale dla Rosji”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 7 ( 2011).

– T. Grotnik, ”Stierieguszczij czyli pierwsza rosyjska korweta bez tajemnic”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 1 (2008).

– T. Szulc,”Jubileuszowa defilada w Pekinie”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 11 (2009).

– T. Szulc, ”MAKS 2011”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa 9 (2011).

– T. Szulc, ”Nowe chińskie platformy bojowe”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 12 (2007).

– T. Szulc, ”Potęga morska Związku Radzieckiego odradza się w… Chinach!”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa 2 (2013).

– T. Szulc, ”Salon lotniczy Zhuhai”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 12 (2008).

– T. Szulc, ”Śmigłowiec Z-9”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 2 (2010).


Internet Websites:

– Altair Agencja Lotnicza sp. z. o. o., Ożywianie Wariaga: http://www.altair.com.pl/news/view?news_id=5595, [[accessed: 11 June 2015].

– Defense Industry Daily, INS Vikramaditya: Waiting for Gorshkov…: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/ins-vikramaditya-may-hit-delay-cost-increases-03283/, [accessed: 11 June 2015].

– Global Firepower: http://www.globalfirepower.com, [accessed: 10 June 2015].

– SIPRI Military Expenditure Database: http://milexdata.sipri.org/, [accessed: 10 June 2015].

– Global Security.org, Project 935/955 Borei: http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/russia/935.htm, [accessed: 11 June 2015].

[1] M. Magierowski,”Panowie Życia i śmierci”, Do Rzeczy, 4 (2013), p. 80.

[2] Ibid.

[3] I. Topolski, ”Stosunki chińsko – rosyjskie”, in Chiny w stosunkach międzynarodowych, ed. K. Iwańczuk and A. Ziętek, (Lublin 2003), p. 144.


[4] T. Szulc, ”Nowe chińskie platformy bojowe”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 12 (2007), pp. 12 -18.

[5] T. Szulc,”Jubileuszowa defilada w Pekinie”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 11 (2009), pp. 12 -15.

[6] T. Szulc, ”Salon lotniczy Zhuhai”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 12 (2008), pp. 44 – 50.

[7] T. Szulc, ”Śmigłowiec Z-9”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 2 (2010), pp. 70 – 79.

[8] I. Topolski, ”Stosunki chińsko – rosyjskie”, pp. 143 – 144.

[9] T. Szulc, ”Salon lotniczy Zhuhai”, p. 79.

[10] I. Topolski, ”Stosunki chińsko – rosyjskie”, p. 144.

[11] Ł. Pacholski, „Hindusi odbierają pierwsze zmodernizowane Mirage 2000 i zamawiają Rafaele”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 5 (2015), p. 62.

[12] T. Grotnik,”Mistrale dla Rosji”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 7 ( 2011), p. 98.

[13] T. Grotnik, ”Stierieguszczij czyli pierwsza rosyjska korweta bez tajemnic”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 1 (2008), p.73.

[14] T. Szulc, ”MAKS 2011”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa 9 (2011), p. 176.

[15] V. p. 12.

[16] Altair Agencja Lotnicza sp. z. o. o., Ożywianie Wariaga: http://www.altair.com.pl/news/view?news_id=5595, [accessed: 11 june 2015]

[17] T. Szulc, ”Potęga morska Związku Radzieckiego odradza się w… Chinach!”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa 2 (2013), p. 66 – 67.

[18] Defense Industry Daily, INS Vikramaditya: Waiting for Gorshkov…: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/ins-vikramaditya-may-hit-delay-cost-increases-03283/, [accessed: 11 June 2015].

[19] T. Szulc, ”Potęga morska Związku Radzieckiego odradza się w… Chinach!”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa 2 (2013), p. 76.

[20] Ł. Pacholski, “Niszczyciel śmigłowcowy Hyuga”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 5 (2009), pp. 86 – 91

[21] Global Security.org, Project 935/955 Borei: http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/russia/935.htm, [accessed: 11 June 2015].

[22] Ł. Pacholski, “SSBN X czyli zmierzch Ohio”, Nowa Technika Wojskowa, 2 (2013), pp. 82 – 85.

[23] The AIIB will a competitor to the World Bank dominated by the Western countries. Beijing will play the main role, but 57 states are reported to join the founding states group, including the United Kingdom – a traditional US ally.

Marcin Adamczyk
Autor ukończył Stosunki Międzynarodowe na Wydziale Nauk Społecznych Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego w 2013 roku obroniwszy, z oceną bardzo dobrą, pracę nt. geopolitycznej roli Chin na Pacyfiku. Rok później podjął Studia Doktoranckie na kierunku Nauki o Polityce, na tym samym wydziale. Autor w ramach Pracowni Koordynacji Badań i Dydaktyki Bezpieczeństwa Narodowego zajmuje się dydaktyką i badaniami nt. bezpieczeństwa i obronności. Obszary badawcze którymi się zajmuje to polityka bezpieczeństwa ChRL, relacje międzynarodowe w obszarze Azji i Pacyfiku oraz potencjały militarne najważniejszych państw na świecie. Jednocześnie z zamiłowaniem poszukuje sprzeczności i powiązań, tam gdzie inny ich nie dostrzegają.

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