China’s Lagging Defense Industry
China’s defense companies produce arms at a rate comparable to the United States, but lag behind in technological sophistication. Compared to Chinese industry overall, they are underperforming.
China has the most active military personnel in the world at 2.2 million.1 The Chinese government has used twenty years of economic growth to modernize the People's Liberation Army (PLA) into a force capable of conquering Taiwan. China is also reportedly considering military aid to Russia for the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.2 In either case, China risks direct or proxy war with major industrial powers like the United States, Japan, and Europe. While China is the world’s foremost industrial power, its ability to achieve military goals will depend more narrowly on the Chinese defense industrial base and, in a prolonged war, on its capacity to produce a wide variety of armaments. Eight enormous state-owned enterprises (SOEs), each tasked with a specific focus, are the core of China’s military manufacturing.