Just The Facts

U.S. vs. China: Measuring the Military

There are many ways to weigh the size of a nation’s armed forces.

U.S. troop in Kandahar, March 2013. Credit: PJF - Shutterstock.com


  • With 2.285 million troops, China has the world’s largest military.
  • The US was second to none on defense spending in 2012 at $682 billion.
  • China’s 2012 defense outlays (~ $166B) were only about a quarter of US defense spending.
  • Russia has a troop strength of 845,000 troops. That is about 37% of neighboring China's.

1. With 2.285 million troops, China has the world’s largest military.

2. It is 50% larger than that of the United States, which ranks as the world’s second-largest.

3. Russia, despite recent headlines, has a troop strength of just 845,000 troops. That is 56% of the U.S. level — and about 37% of neighboring China’s.

4. The number of troops is not the only determinant of the size or strength of a nation’s military.

5. Ships, planes, equipment and weaponry also count — and are an expensive component of the military.

6. Based on 2012 expenditures, the United States is second to none — spending $682 billion on defense.

7. By comparison, China’s 2012 defense outlays — estimated at $166 billion — were only about a quarter of U.S. defense spending.

Analysis by The Globalist Research Center, with data sources from International Institute for Strategic Studies’ “Military Balance 2013 ” and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s “Military Expenditure Database.”



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