Using publicly available data, let us examine and explore the gaps between military strength, budget and resources of China and Taiwan.
TLDR Background. From the lens of China, Taiwan is considered a renegade province that has always been an inseparable part of Chinese history and by extension, Chinese territories. From the lens of Taiwan, its people are increasingly identifying themselves as Taiwanese, with a distinct culture and a different set of social and political beliefs. China's desire to unify the territories collides squarely with Taiwan's inclination towards independence and is a potential major conflict that is ready to unravel anytime.
The Main Players. There are essentially five countries in the Northeast Asia region - all of which are in some form of direct or indirect conflict with the other, such as China vs Taiwan, South Korea vs North Korea and Japan being in indirect conflict with both Koreas and China as a result of legacy issues from World War II.
Add United States into the mix as the powerful ally of Taiwan, South Korea and Japan and things get really complicated. So, for the simplicity of this article, we will only look at the comparison of China vs Taiwan (without any allied assistance). Finally, it is obvious that China will prevail in this "numbers" war but the question is - by how much?
1. China-Taiwan Active Military Strengths - 13.4x Gap (Edge: China). China has the largest active military force in the world at 2.185 million soldiers. That's overwhelming advantage right there - mightily dwarfing Taiwan's 163,000 active soldiers.
2. Total Military Sizes - 2.2x Gap (Edge: China). In a nation where men serve a mandatory conscription, this is where Taiwan closes in on the difference in force sizes. With 1,657,000 reservists and a total force of 1.8 million soldiers, Taiwan reduces the gap in military sizes from 13.4x to 2.2x against China's total force of 4 milllion soldiers.
3. Defense Spending - 26x Gap (Edge: China). China ranks second globally in terms of defense spending at US$261 billion (reportedly 1.9% of GDP). Only the United States has a larger defense budget at US$781 billion (3.4% of GDP). Meanwhile, Taiwan's annual defense spending ranks 22nd worldwide at US$10.4 billion, slightly behind Singapore's US$11 billion.
4. Battle Tanks - 15.9x Gap (Edge: China). Fortunately for Taiwan, it has no land border with China, implying the initial battles will be fought in the air and at sea. Taiwan has a force of 566 tanks or about 6.2% of China's 9000-strong tank force.
5. Air Offense/Defense - 4.8x Gap (Edge: China). In recent years, China's planes have been launching incursions into Taiwan air space. It remains to be seen how Taiwan's air force of 639 French and U.S. aircrafts will fare against the People's Liberation Army Air Force of more than 4,000 Chinese-manufactured aircrafts.
6. Naval Forces - 8.7x Gap (Edge: China). China has a fleet of 270 major war vessels - aircraft carriers, destroyers, corvettes, frigates and submarines, compared to Taiwan's smaller fleet of 31 major war vessels. Submarines-wise, China has a fleet of 69 submarines, including 14 nuclear submarines, compared to Taiwan's fleet of 4 non-nuclear submarines.
7. Nuclear Warfare - No Contest (Edge: China). China has a stockpile of 290 nuclear missiles, while Taiwan has none. However, it is highly unlikely and meaningless for China to launch any nuclear weapon at Taiwan in a bid to re-unify with it.
Check out these military rankings by region and force type: