The metrics by which we compare the military strengths of nations often serve as better representation of the countries’ fiscal priorities than their actual combat power. America, for instance, employs the largest, most capable military force on the planet, but because of its diverse obligations and responsibilities the world over, it would be difficult—if not impossible—to amass the entirety of America’s military apparatus in just one region for just one fight.

The fact of the matter is, American hardware and personnel stationed or deployed all around the world often serve as a stabilizing presence and deterrent aimed at nipping future conflicts in the bud before they have a chance to mature into full-fledged threats to America’s security. Such has been the nation’s post-World War II strategy: Stay involved in everybody’s business to ensure a conflict never spills over onto American shores. Even under seemingly anti-interventionist presidents like Barack Obama or arguably isolationist ones like Donald Trump, America’s military might remains distributed far and wide in defense of U.S. and allied interests in places, and even nations, many Americans may never have even heard of.

Therein lies the difficulty in comparing America’s defense apparatus to that of a near-peer competitor like China. China boasts a far larger standing army than the United States, advanced technology initiatives aimed at stealth aircraft and orbital operations, and notably, a Navy that is already every bit as large (or potentially even larger) than America’s. Their tech is largely not as advanced, but the problem is, America’s Navy has dates to keep all around the globe. China’s doesn’t.

In a recent piece by David Axe, published by The National Interest, Axe offers the point that China’s Navy is far larger than most Westerners realize. How large? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 650 sizable vessels. This assessment runs counter to the most recent estimates published by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, but there’s good reason for that: A large portion of those ships don’t actually belong to the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N), but rather to one of two other maritime organizations: the Coast Guard or the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM).