The Chinese military is rapidly modernizing and growing, spending an unknown amount of money on sophisticated weapons systems. The army of China has almost as many tanks as the US, while its navy has an aircraft carrier, massive hovercraft, and nuclear submarines in secret bases with access to vital shipping lanes.
Beyond that, China has weapons even the US doesn't have. One of these is a fearsome anti-ship missile that might have the capability to sink an American aircraft carrier. China also has over a hundred thousand cyber-warfare soldiers dedicated to everything from large-scale espionage to hacking to online smear campaigns. Add that to the thousands of planes and tanks they have, and China's military is indeed fearsome.Here are some of the most frightening facts about China's armed forces.
They Have an Anti-Ship Missile That Could Sink a US Carrier
China's new anti-ship ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-21D, had been rumored for years before it was unveiled to the public in 2015. It sent US officials into near-panic, as it theoretically has the ability to be launched from a land installation, go into orbit, and track a ship over the horizon - flying 10 times the speed of sound and being unstoppable once in flight.In reality, the 21D might not be the game-changer the US first feared. Its warhead isn't thought to be especially large, and it's still vulnerable to electronic countermeasures, relying on constant updates that can be disrupted in numerous ways.
They Have Hundreds of Nuclear Warheads
China's nuclear capability is a state secret, but independent estimates put its raw number of nuclear warheads rather low, between 250 and 260. China has a "no first use" policy, and has vowed to never use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. But they could easily hit the West Coast of the US, having between 45 and 50 long range missiles, with possibly double that number coming online before 2020. Japan is also squarely in the range of dozens of Chinese nukes.Essentially, China's nuclear arsenal isn't big enough for deterrence or a crippling first strike, but still big enough to kill millions.
China Has More People in Uniform Than the US
In the fiscal year ending 2016, the US had 1.3 million active duty military personnel, and another 811,000 in reserve. In contrast, the US estimates China has about 2.3 million active duty military members, and another half-million reservists. Many of these are inexperienced conscripts, but China is modernizing its training programs.
China's Cyber Warfare Capabilities Are Terrifying and Totally Unknown
Chinese military strategy depends on seizing control of the electronic frontier, through both active offensive action and espionage. To accomplish that end, the Chinese military has as many as 130,000 people in various cyber-warfare divisions. The country's electronic warfare capabilities are shrouded in secrecy, but it's thought they can take control of electronics on other countries, disable networks, steal secrets, hack government databases, and even launch coordinated disinformation campaigns.As many as three dozen US companies, including Google, Dow Chemical, and Northrup Grumman have been hacked, as well as government agencies around the world. A US grand jury even indicted members of an elite Chinese cyber-warfare division after a hack attack against US intelligence.