Leadership: Taiwan Rising

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March 8,2008: Responding to China's announced 17.6 percent increase in its defense budget, Taiwan said it was upping its military spending as well. But while China's new number is about $57 billion a year, Taiwan's is only $11.3 billion. That's about 2.6 percent of GDP, compared to about two percent for China. Taiwan's population is only 23 million, compared to 1.4 billion for China. Taiwan has 350,000 troops on active duty, compared to 2.2 million for China. However, all of Taiwan's forces are well trained and equipped with modern weapons. Only about a fifth of China's forces are similarly outfitted. You can see how this works by comparing the money spent per soldier. It's $32,200 for Taiwan, and $26,900 for China (only 16.5 percent less than Taiwan). That the numbers are this close is a recent development. In the last decade, Chinese military spending has nearly tripled, while Taiwan's has gone up by about twenty percent. Moreover, China hides a lot of military spending (especially for research and infrastructure) in other parts of the national budget.

This is an old trick with communist countries. After the Soviet Union dissolved, and the communist governments collapsed in Eastern Europe, the extent of these subterfuges was revealed. It is believed that China is actually spending twice as much on defense. But there is a lot more corruption and inefficiency in the Chinese military, compared to the Taiwanese. China maintains thousands of elderly aircraft and many older warships as well. This is expensive. Most Chinese tanks are relics of the 1960s and 70s. So a lot of the new money is going to replacing the antiques with stuff that can survive the first days of any future war. China apparently plans to spend the next decade doing just that. In addition, China has other major expenses that Taiwan doesn't have to worry about, like nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. While Taiwan concentrates on delaying a possible Chinese invasion long enough for American reinforcements to arrive, China has to worry about a host of potential enemies, both external and internal. China is still a police state, and the ultimate guarantor of continued communist rule is the People's Liberation Army (the armed forces.).

 


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