Chinese Strategy, Military Forces, and Economics

The Metrics of Cooperation, Competition and/or Conflict

By Anthony H. Cordesman

China’s actions, and its rapid emergence as a major regional military power, has led the U.S. to focus its military and strategic planning on China as one of two critical threats. Along with Russia, China has become the central focus of U.S. security planning in both the new National Security Strategy (NSS) issued by the President in December 2017, and in the new National Defense Strategy (NDS) issued by the Secretary of Defense in early 2018.


The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing a new analysis entitled Chinese Strategy, Military Forces, and Economics: The Metrics of Cooperation, Competition and/or Conflict. A PDF version is avalable on the CSIS web site at A PowerPoint version is available at

The analysis provides an introductory summary of the new U.S. strategy, and a survey of the metrics that help illustrate the changes in China’s overall global position, military forces, and power projection capabilities. It draws on official U.S. reporting by the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy, reporting by the Japanese Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Defense of Taiwan, reporting by CSIS, the Congressional Research Service, IISS, SIPRI and a wide range of other think tanks, and on various media reports.

The wide range of sources help illustrate the complex relationships that are shaping China’s emergence as a major global military and economic power. The report also draws heavily on official Chinese reporting, and particularly on the May 2018 edition of the Department of Defense’s Military and Security Developments Involving the Republic of China, Annual Report to Congress.

At the same time, the metrics and data illustrate some of the many areas where there are no reliable data and/or conflicting estimates. The report is not designed to justify the conclusions drawn in theNational Security Strategy (NSS) and new National Defense strategy, but rather to illustrate a range of different assessments of key trends, and to put China’s military developments in a broader context.

More generally, metrics are useful indicators but are not a substitute for detailed analysis. There are also many aspects of China’s emerging power which either cannot be portrayed using metrics or where no metrics are available. As such, this is more an aid to research and a means of quickly gaining a broad overview of the areas where metrics do provide useful summary indicators rather than a comprehensive analysis.

Other Burke Chair studies on Chinese and Asia security include: