Weekly Geopolitical Report – The U.S.-China Balance of Power: Part II (January 25, 2021)

by Patrick Fearon-Hernandez, CFA | PDF

In Part I of this report, we provided a comprehensive overview of how China and the U.S. see their key interests and goals.  We believe those understandings will have a big impact on how the two sides compete with each other in the coming decades.  In Part II this week, we provide a head-to-head comparison of U.S. and Chinese military power.  In the following weeks, Part III will examine the relative economic power of the two sides.  Part IV will describe their diplomatic positions around the world.  Finally, Part V will dive into the opportunities and threats for U.S. investors.

To compare two military powers, you need to resolve many issues.  For example, should you compare only the two countries’ own forces?  Or should you also count the forces of any allies that might fight with them?  If so, should you discount the allies’ forces because of problems like limited joint training or domestic political concerns that might make them reluctant to fight?  Our method will focus on the two sides’ total national forces, on the assumption that even though a U.S.-China conflict would probably be fought in the waters off China’s coast, assets currently deployed in theaters such as Europe or northwestern China could theoretically be brought to bear on the fight if needed.  For each country, we first discuss the overall resource base available to support military forces.  We then discuss the quantity and quality of each country’s land, sea, air, space, and cyber forces.

Read the full report