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India vs China Military: Is China a military superpower or a Paper Dragon?

India vs China Military: In the complex geopolitical landscape of the 21st century, two Asian giants, India and China, stand at the forefront of global attention, not only for their economic prowess but also for their formidable military capabilities. As the world watches the intricate dance between these neighboring nations, a crucial question emerges: Is China truly a military superpower, with the strength to reshape global dynamics, or is it, as some argue, a ‘Paper Dragon’—a force that appears mighty on the surface but is, in reality, vulnerable to scrutiny?

This blog aims to delve into the intricacies of the military strengths and weaknesses of both India and China, dissecting the narratives that surround their armed forces. We will explore the historical context, recent developments, and the evolving nature of their military capabilities, shedding light on whether China’s military might is a genuine force to be reckoned with or if it conceals inherent vulnerabilities.

India vs China Military Power

Here’s a data table summarizing the military manpower and equipment for both India and China:

Category India China
Active personnel 1,455,550 2,185,000
Reserve personnel 1,155,000 8,000,000
Available for military 319,129,420 385,821,101
Land Forces
Tanks 4,614 5,750
Armoured fighting vehicles 8,600 14,130
Total artillery 2,799 7,094
Self-propelled artillery 100 2,720
Rocket artillery 960 3,140
Air Forces
Total aircraft 2,263 4,630
Fighter aircraft 173 1,049
Multirole aircraft 405 1,130
Attack aircraft 120 120
Helicopters 729 1,355
UCAV (combat drone) 12 151
Total naval 267 742
Aircraft carriers 1 4
Destroyers 11 38
Frigates 13 54
Corvettes 23 73
Submarines 16 74

Note: The figures presented here are based on available data and are subject to change. Military capabilities are complex, and numbers alone may not fully capture the overall strength of a nation’s armed forces.

India vs China Atomic Power

India and China possess nuclear capabilities. However, specific details regarding the number of nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and other aspects of their nuclear arsenals are often closely guarded and may change over time. Here’s a general overview of India and China’s nuclear capabilities:


Nuclear Weapons Status:

  • India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, known as “Smiling Buddha.”
  • In 1998, India conducted a series of nuclear tests, establishing itself as a de facto nuclear weapons state.

Nuclear Doctrine:

  • India follows a no-first-use policy, meaning it pledges not to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict but reserves the right to respond with nuclear force if attacked.

Arsenal and Delivery Systems:

  • India possesses a variety of nuclear-capable delivery systems, including ballistic missiles and aircraft.
  • The Agni series of ballistic missiles, such as Agni-I, Agni-II, Agni-III, and more, are part of India’s nuclear triad.


Nuclear Weapons Status:

  • China conducted its first nuclear test in 1964.
  • It is recognized as one of the five nuclear-armed states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Nuclear Doctrine:

  • China maintains a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, similar to India.
  • It emphasizes a minimum deterrent posture.

Arsenal and Delivery Systems:

  • China has a diverse range of ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
  • The Dongfeng (DF) series, such as DF-21, DF-31, and DF-41, are part of China’s nuclear arsenal.
  • China also has a nuclear-powered submarine fleet capable of carrying SLBMs.

Points of Consideration:

  • Both countries are continually modernizing and upgrading their nuclear arsenals.
  • The nuclear balance between India and China is part of the broader regional and global strategic landscape.
  • Both nations are committed to maintaining a credible minimum deterrent and emphasize the defensive nature of their nuclear capabilities.

Military Modernization

While both nations have heavily invested in bolstering their defense capabilities and achieved notable advancements in modernizing their armed forces, their respective approaches exhibit marked differences.

India’s air defense vulnerabilities came to light in a 2019 standoff over Kashmir when an outdated Indian MiG-21 was downed by a Pakistani jet. Responding swiftly, India initiated a comprehensive overhaul of its air force, acquiring advanced aircraft from key suppliers like France, Russia, and the United States. Additionally, there was a strategic shift in focus from heavy tanks. Notably, India leads as the foremost among the world’s ten largest arms importers.

President Xi Jinping has outlined an ambitious modernization plan for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in China, emphasizing four key milestones. By 2020, the PLA aimed for mechanization and significant strides in integrating information and communications technology. The subsequent phase, set for 2027, centers on army building and professionalization. Looking ahead to 2035, the goal is full modernization and intelligentization, incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy. The ultimate objective is to possess the capability to engage and triumph in wars by the mid-21st century. These extensive reforms span all PLA service branches and prioritize joint operations based on contemporary and future warfare concepts, underscoring China’s commitment to military strength and global influence.

The balance of power between these regional giants remains a pivotal issue, carrying implications that extend far and wide. Consequently, continuous monitoring and analysis of their military capabilities and strategies are imperative to comprehend the evolving security landscape in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Military Clash

While India and China have not been involved in a full-scale war, they have experienced several skirmishes along their border. The most significant of these was the 1962 Sino-Indian War, where China emerged triumphant, securing control over the disputed region of Aksai Chin.

In 2020, a significant military standoff unfolded in the Ladakh region between Indian and Chinese troops. According to India’s foreign ministry, 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the confrontation. While there has been no official statement from China regarding the number of casualties, intercepted information from Indian sources estimates approximately 43 casualties on the Chinese side. Chinese troops reportedly incurred 43 casualties during the face-off with the Indian Army at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley region of Eastern Ladakh, as reported by news agency ANI.

China Lacks Willpower

1 Indian Army = 20 Chinese Army

China boasts the world’s largest army, comprising 2,185,000 active personnel and 510,000 reserve personnel. India closely follows as the possessor of the second-largest army globally, with 1,237,117 active personnel and 960,000 reserve personnel. It’s worth noting that a substantial portion of China’s military force consists of conscripts rather than professional soldiers. In compliance with Chinese law, citizens are obligated to register themselves after turning 18, and while China terms it “volunteered conscription,” many conscripts may not have alternative options but to join the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In contrast, the Indian military operates under a different framework. Every Indian soldier is required to earn their uniform, and there is a profound sense of pride associated with wearing it. Unlike the conscription model in China, Indian soldiers enter military service through voluntary enlistment, contributing to a different ethos within the armed forces. The contrast in recruitment methods and the emphasis on voluntary service adds an additional layer to the comparison between the military structures of these two significant nations.

India vs China Air Power

The air power capabilities of India and China reflect significant investments in modernization and expansion. India’s air force, with approximately 2,210 aircraft, boasts a diverse fleet, including indigenous Tejas and advanced platforms like the Rafale. China, with an estimated 3,284 aircraft, holds a numerical advantage and operates a mix of fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets, including the J-20 stealth fighter. Both nations emphasize technological advancements, with India addressing vulnerabilities exposed in a 2019 incident by rapidly modernizing its air force.

China, aiming for military modernization by 2035, focuses on intelligentization and integration of artificial intelligence. While India has made strides, China’s air force holds a quantitative and increasingly qualitative edge. The evolving dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region underscore the importance of continuous monitoring and analysis of their air power capabilities, as technological advancements and strategic doctrines shape the balance in this critical dimension of military strength. For the latest and most accurate information, it is advisable to refer to updated defense publications or official sources from both nations. China has bigger picture in aircraft but the efficacy of Chinese fighter jets may be debated in comparison to counterparts from nations with more established aviation traditions.

India vs China Naval Power

the naval power dynamics between India and China reflect significant investments in maritime capabilities. India’s navy, comprising around 295 assets, emphasizes a balanced fleet with a focus on indigenously developed platforms. It currently operates one aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, and is in the process of deploying its indigenous carrier, INS Vikrant. India’s submarine fleet includes diesel-electric and nuclear-powered submarines, showcasing a commitment to technological diversity.

In contrast, China possesses one of the world’s largest and rapidly expanding navies, with approximately 730 assets. It operates one operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and has launched its domestically built carrier, the Shandong. China’s naval force includes advanced destroyers like the Type 055 and frigates such as the Type 054A. The submarine fleet is a focal point, incorporating conventional and nuclear-powered submarines.

The naval balance in the Indo-Pacific region remains dynamic, with both nations striving to assert influence and secure maritime interests. Evolving developments and ongoing modernization efforts underscore the significance of continuous monitoring to understand the evolving naval power dynamics between India and China.

Two-Front War: A Myth

The Indian national psyche bears the lasting imprint of the humiliating defeat in 1962, compounded by sustained misinformation propagated by strategically deficient military analysts who have assigned exaggerated capabilities to the Chinese military, particularly the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). This perpetuated narrative often invokes unwarranted fears of a hypothetical two-front war scenario.

However, the feasibility of a two-front war involving China and Pakistan is questionable for several reasons. Firstly, Pakistan lacks the military strength and firepower to endure a prolonged conflict lasting 30 to 40 days. Furthermore, the ongoing instability along the Line of Control (LoC) essentially translates into a perpetual state of low-intensity warfare, effectively tying down nearly 250,000 soldiers of the Indian Army along the LoC.

Secondly, China faces inherent military limitations that make it improbable for them to neutralize the Indian armed forces, particularly while simultaneously occupying additional territory and maintaining control over it. The assertion here is that China, despite territorial gains, is considered militarily incapable of decisively subduing the Indian armed forces.

In essence, the perceived threat of a two-front war scenario is challenged by the practical considerations of Pakistan’s military capacity and the belief that China, despite territorial holdings, is not inherently equipped to overpower the Indian armed forces convincingly. This perspective seeks to counteract the prevalent narrative of exaggerated military threats and instill a more grounded understanding of India’s strategic position in the event of a conflict involving both China and Pakistan.


In conclusion, the military dynamics between India and China are complex and multifaceted. Both nations have invested significantly in modernizing and expanding their armed forces, making them formidable players in the Asia-Pacific region. China holds the numerical advantage in terms of active military personnel and overall military assets. Its ambitious military modernization plans, including advancements in technology and strategic reforms, underscore its commitment to becoming a global military power. But India will dominate in 2050.

The ongoing border disputes, historical tensions, and geopolitical considerations contribute to the complex nature of the India-China military relationship. Both nations maintain no-first-use policies regarding nuclear weapons, emphasizing a commitment to defensive postures.

As these two regional giants continue to evolve their military capabilities, the balance of power remains a critical issue with implications for regional and global security. Continuous monitoring and analysis of their military strengths, strategies, and geopolitical interactions are essential to understanding the evolving security environment in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.


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