Why China Can’t Challenge the US Military Any Time Soon

Wes O'Donnell
5 min readJul 28, 2022

There’s been a lot of fearmongering about the Chinese military recently.

Alarmist headlines meant to drive clicks are common:

Only a matter of time: Warnings of China-U.S. military miscalculation grow” from The Japan Times.

Pentagon calls out China’s military threats as Taiwan tensions worsen” from The Washington Post.

Top US general warns of China’s military advancements” from The Independent.

But here’s the thing — despite Chinese military advancements in recent years, (much of it from stolen U.S. intellectual property) China still lacks two key elements that make it unlikely that they could challenge U.S. military primacy any time soon:

  1. A lack of an overseas military presence, and
  2. No combat experience in modern history.

Power projection — a lack of overseas military bases

After 1945, the United States found itself in a unique position. Largely untouched by the global war that just ended, the U.S. emerged as the world’s champion for the democratic order.

Together with other post-war victors, the Allies vowed to never again allow regional hegemons that might result in a third world war.

Indeed, it was this vow, and their attempt to contain Communism, that resulted in numerous U.S.-involved conflicts from the Korean War to Vietnam and beyond.

But the question that confronted Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and other architects of what Eisenhower ironically called the “military industrial complex” is:

How can America provide both deterrence and reassurance simultaneously around the world?

The answer was permanent overseas military installations.

Today, the United States has over 750 military bases in 80 countries.

Many of these bases can be traced to post-world war stabilization efforts.

The newly installed welcome sign on display at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 2, 2021. The front of the new welcome sign contains both the 86th Airlift Wing and U.S. Air Forces in Europe — Air Forces Africa crest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Edgar Grimaldo) Public Domain

However, it’s no overstatement to say that these hundreds of U.S. bases on foreign soil are controversial, with proponents claiming that such bases provide security assurances to our regional allies, and…

Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security Wonk for War is Boring, GEN, OneZero, Soldier of Fortune | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Founder of Warrior Lodge