Chapter 18: China’s defense build-up: evaluating China’s military capabilities
One of the salient dimensions of China’s rise in the post–Cold War has been the high-pace modernization of the PLA. According to figures collected by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China’s military expenditures have been multiplied by more than eight – in real terms – over the last two decades. This enormous increase of resources has allowed China to considerably improve the quality of its armed forces, turning an obsolescent PLA into a force increasingly capable of fighting and prevailing in a local war under high-tech/informationized conditions. This chapter examines the progress made by the PLA in the context of a potential clash between Beijing and Washington, which, in all likelihood, would mainly – if not exclusively – be fought over the ‘commons’ – the sea, the air, space and cyberspace. China has substantially enhanced capacity to deny control of the commons, while it has been, at the same time, striving to build a limited capacity to control the commons for its own purposes.
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