Handbook of US–China Relations
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Handbook of US–China Relations

Edited by Andrew T.H. Tan

This Handbook addresses the key questions surrounding US–China relations: what are the historical and contemporary contexts that underpin this complex relationship? How has the strategic rivalry between the two evolved? What are the key flashpoints in their relationship? What are the key security issues between the two powers? The international contributors explore the historical, political, economic, military, and international and regional spheres of the US–China relationship. The topics they discuss include human rights, Chinese public perception of the United States, US–China strategic rivalry, China’s defence build-up and cyber war.
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Chapter 18: China’s defense build-up: evaluating China’s military capabilities

Yves-Heng Lim


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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