There has been much exaggerated talk about the rise of Chinese military expenditure. The first graph below gives an historical perspective. In 2012, Chinese military expenditure was less than a quarter of US military expenditure. As a proportion of GDP, China’s military expenditure was 2.0% compared with 4.4% for the US. The striking fact remains the US’s huge military expenditure. The second graph below gives the per capita military expenditure of a range of countries. As is clear, in per capita terms, China’s military expenditure remains still extremely low.
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The above figures are taken from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Military Expenditure Database. For more information, refer to Xiao Tiefeng’s article at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, Misconceptions About China’s Growth in Military Spending.