China, India Among Top 5 Defense Spenders in 2020

  • Aishwarya Rakesh
  • 04:52 PM, August 18, 2020
  • 4366
China, India Among Top 5 Defense Spenders in 2020
Chinese J-20 combat aircraft (image: China MoD)

China and India have earned a place in the list of top countries with highest defense spending in the world this year.

While China lost the first spot to the United States with an annual spending of $237 billion, India bagged the fourth place with $67 billion.

The U.S. has a staggering budget of $750 billion, representing about 53.57% of the $1.4 trillion expenditure by top ten countries. France has the least budget among the overviewed countries at $41.5 billion, according to data compiled by

Among other big ticket projects in the pipeline, China plans to build its third aircraft carrier and possibly, a carrier-based jet. It has also accelerated work on Type 075 helicopter carriers, developed a variety of guns and vehicles: tanks and air-dropped armored vehicles, built a number of jets such as J-20s and JF-17s, radars and combat drones.

China, India Among Top 5 Defense Spenders in 2020

In July, Beijing reportedly kick-started mass production of upgraded J-20B jets. Last week, Chinese media was abuzz with reports of another new two-seat variant of the Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon,” which, if true, could be the world’s first two-seat stealth fighter. It also recently developed an “airfield killer" - an airborne munitions dispenser likely to be equipped on J-16 jet, JH-7 fighter bomber and H-6 bomber, that can release hundreds of submunitions.

Soured relations with India could be a possible reason behind China’s bagging of the top spot. Beijing’s tensions with the U.S. and its claim over most of resource-rich South China Sea, irking many South East Asian nations, may have also driven the spending.

China’s military expenditure has been marred with controversy with the government being accused of inconsistency in its reporting on defense spending. Furthermore, efforts to precisely single out Chinese military spending are further complicated by the lack of a detailed breakdown of expenditure on various military-related outlays. Additionally, foreign estimates of Chinese military spending suggest that actual spending may be higher.

In May, National’s People’s Congress (NPC) drew up a draft report which had set its 2020 defense budget at $178 billion.

China, India Among Top 5 Defense Spenders in 2020
India's Su-30MKI refuels Mirage 2000 jet mid-air

India, on the other hand, may have upped its defense spending over border conflicts with Pakistan and China. New Delhi’s recent announcements to rapidly modernize its forces besides policies to indigenize production of equipment may explain its position among top defense spenders.

Last month, Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved a collection of arms procurement projects worth $5.55 billion, including domestic efforts worth $4.44 billion. The mega military modernization effort includes upgrade of 59 MiG-29 jets and purchase of 21 new MiG-29s and 12 Su-30MKIs. The government has also approved several indigenous development programs: producing ammunition for Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, armaments upgrade of BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles; software-defined radios; Nirbhay land-attack cruise missiles; and Astra beyond-visual-range missiles.

Emergency purchase of Excalibur artillery rounds for M777 ultralight howitzers from the United States, Igla-S air defense systems from Russia and Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel, was also green-lighted by the Indian defense ministry.

India also plans to buy 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft from state-owned HAL for over $5 billion by the end of this year.

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