Based on quantitative and normative analyses, this article finds that China’s military budget in the post-Mao era benefits from the central government’s advantageous position in national revenue distribution under the 1994 tax-sharing scheme. Memoirs of political and military elites have shown that military needs were actually a major concern for the launch of tax reform, which subsequently facilitated changes in the fund allotment of the People’s Liberation Army from Deng Xiaoping’s “military shall endure” (军队要忍耐 jundui yao rennai) approach, to “self-improving, self-developing” (自我完善 自我发展 ziwo wanshan ziwo fazhan) commercialisation, and to Jiang Zemin’s “eating imperial grain” (吃皇粮 chi huangliang) reform.