“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can,
just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere
you must run twice as fast as that."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

People's Liberation Army Versus the US Military

Zeno of Elea, son of Teleutagoras, the pupil and the friend of Parmenides, is supposed to have been born towards the beginning of the 5th century BC. In Plato's Parmenides, Socrates, "then very young," meets Parmenides, "an old man some sixty-five years of age," and Zeno, "a man of about forty, tall and personable," and engages them in philosophical discussion. Of the paradoxes used by Zeno to discredit the belief in plurality and motion, eight survive in the writings of Aristotle.

Zeno's Sixth Paradox holds that if a tortoise has the start of Achilles, Achilles can never come up with the tortoise; for, while Achilles traverses the distance from his starting-point to the starting-point of the tortoise, the tortoise advances a certain distance, and while Achilles traverses this distance, the tortoise makes a further advance, and so on ad infinitum. Consequently. Achilles may run ad infinitum without overtaking the tortise. But here Zen mistakenly Zeno confounds a finite distance infinitely divided with an infinite distance.

The PLA Air Force has been upgraded in the five years 2012-2017, with the "20" series aircraft. The J-20, a stealth fighter jet independently developed by China, was officially commissioned into military service on 28 September 2017. The Y-20, a versatile plane with a maximum takeoff weight of about 200 tons, is designed to carry cargo and personnel over long distances in hazardous terrain. It officially entered military service in July 2016. On September 2, 2016, PLA Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian said that China is developing a new generation long-range strategic bomber. Chinese military enthusiasts and analysts call it the H-20, which they believe could match the US B-2 stealth bomber. The Z-20 utility helicopter, which China considers a match for the UH-60 Blackhawk, is also undergoing tests in plateau regions in China.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said 24 June 2015 that China was rapidly closing the technology and capabilities gap with the US when it comes to air and space defense superiority. The Defense Department, he said, "cannot overlook the competitive aspects of our relationship, especially in the realm of military capabilities, an area in which China continues to improve at a very impressive rate."

The United States is taking action to make sure it militarily stays ahead of China, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on 06 November 2015 in remarks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “We definitely keep an eye on China and we take specificactions to make sure we stay ahead of Chinese military capabilities," Carter said. “This is built into our budget."

China’s military buildup is approaching near parity with the United States on the land, sea, air and in cyber warfare, US Pacific Command (PACOM) commander Admiral Harry Harris told Congress on 21 February 2018. "China’s impressive military buildup could soon challenge the United States across almost every domain," commander Admiral Harris said in testimony before the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. Key advancements include "fielding significant improvements in missile systems, developing fifth generation fighter aircraft capabilities, and growing the size and capability of the Chinese navy," Harris said.

Who is on First? PLA Versus USA - 25 Achievements
Milestone China year gap year USA
1st H-bomb test CHIC 6 1967 13 1954 TX-14
Atomic Submarine, launch Type 091 1970 16 1954 Nautilus
Supersonic Aircraft, 1st flight Q5 1965 18 1947 X-1
1st A-bomb test CHIC 1 1964 19 1945 Trinity
5th Generation Fighter, 1st flight J-20 2010 20 1990 F-22
ICBM, 1st flight DF-5 1979 22 1957 Atlas
SLBM, 1st flight Jl-1 1982 22 1960 Polaris
Ballistic Missile Submarine, launch Type 092 1981 22 1959 Washington
Anti-Satellite Interceptor, 1st flight SC-19 2007 22 1985 ALMV
4th Generation Fighter, 1st flight J-10 1996 24 1972 F-15
Stealth Aircraft, 1st flight J-20 2010 29 1981 F-117
Solid ICBM, 1st flight DF-31 1992 31 1961 Minuteman
Long Range SLBM, 1st flight Jl-2 2001 34 1977 Trident I
Special Armor Tank VT-4 2014 36 1978 M1 Abrams
Large Unmanned Air Vehicle [UAV] Tian Yi 2009 36 1973 YQM-94A
Attack Helicopter, 1st flight WZ-10 2003 38 1965 AH-1
Piloted Spacecraft, 1st flight Shenzhou 5 2003 41 1962 MA-6
Heavy Cargo Aircraft, 1st flight Y-20 2012 44 1968 C-5A
Man-Portable ATGM HJ-12 2014 44 1970 BGM-71 TOW
Single Aisle Pax Jet, 1st flight C919 2016 51 1965 DC-9
Dock Landing Ship, launch Type 071 2006 64 1942 Ashland
Carrier-Based AEW KJ-600 2018 64 1954 E-1 Tracer
Manned Lunar Landing none N/A 46 1969 Apollo 11
Supersonic Bomber, 1st flight none N/A 51 1964 B-70
Amphibious Assault Ship, launch none N/A 55 1960 Iwo Jima
Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, launch none N/A 61 1954 Forrestal
Heavy Bomber, 1st flight none N/A 64 1952 B-52
NOTE: includes only USA and PRC domestic designs, excludes Chinese copies

PLA Versus the US Military (As of January 2011)
China United States
Defense Expenditure (Billions USD)
Published Budget, current exchange rate
78.6 (2010)
91.5 (2011)
739.2 (FY10)1
741.2 (FY11)2
Defense Expenditure (Billions USD)
Purchasing power parity (PPP)
380 741
Total Servicemembers (Active) 2,285,000 1,580,255
Total Servicemembers (Active and Reserve) 2,795,000 2,444,802
Army Personnel ~1,600,000 553,044
Marine Corps Personnel 10,000 198,513
Total Nuclear Weapons ~400 5,1133
Total Fighter Aircraft 1,605 3,6954
Modern Combat Aircraft 5 307 3,695
Stealth Fighter Aircraft 1 139
Bomber Aircraft ~1126 154
Heavy Bombers 0 154
Large Cargo Aircraft 547 7488
Aerial Refueling Aircraft 21 574
Total Surface Combatants9 38 111
Total Major Surface Combatants10 4 79
Aircraft Carriers 1 11
Amphibious Assault Ships 0 11
Amphibious Landing Ships11 1 24
Ballistic Missile Submarines 3 14
Nuclear Attack Submarines 6 54
Nuclear Cruise Missile Submarines 0 4
Diesel Submarines 52 0


1 - This includes $75.5 billion in supplemental appropriations for 2009 and $130.0 billion for 2010 to support ongoing overseas contingency operations.

2 - This includes $33.0 billion for a 2010 supplemental request and $159.3 billion for 2011 to support ongoing overseas contingency operations.

3 - As of 30 September 2009

4 - Includes A-10 and OA-10 types

5 - Excludes Vietnam-era designs

6 - Does not include any residual number of obselete H-5/Il-28 types

7 - B-737-200, Il-76MD, Tu-154M, and Y-8

8 - C-5, C-17, and C-130s (less AC-130, HC-130, KC-130, and MC-130 types)

9 - 0ver 3000 tons

10 - 0ver 7500 tons

11 - Landing Ship Dock, Landing Platform Dock types


Join the mailing list