Xi Jinping Consolidates Military Power, Tweaks National Defense Law To Make China Combat-Ready

Chinese President Xi Jinping has now consolidated military power by revising regulations that focus on “war preparedness and combat capabilities” of the PLA. Xi, chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), signed an order amending the National Defense Law that is effective from January 1, 2021.

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It defines the basic tasks, contents, and management mechanisms for military equipment work under the new situation and system, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The document refers to the general principle of “the CMC exercising overall leadership, theater commands responsible for military operations and the services focusing on developing capabilities”. This puts the CMC in power replacing the little control the State council or government cabinet had.

According to the Google-translated version of Xi’s order, it is meant to “deepen actual combat training, strengthen research on war and combat issues, strengthen actual case-based confrontation training, strengthen emergency response specialization, and strengthen front-line military combat training” ensuring they are “ready to fight at any time”.

The draft of the bill released earlier stated: “When China’s sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, and security and development interests are under threat, the country can conduct nationwide or local defense mobilization”. The amendment has introduced a new addition “development interests.”

The “developmental interest” points to China’s economic interest including its overseas markets and overseas assets derived, Song Zhongping, an expert, told the state-owned Global Times. It means that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can be deployed in case the country’s economic interests are threatened.

Citing a CMC official, the state media outlet also stated that the revised national defense law also embodies the concept that “everyone should be involved in national defense,” including “all national organizations, armed forces, political parties, civil groups, enterprises, social organizations, and other organizations should support and take part in the development of national defense, fulfill national defense duties and carry out national defense missions according to the law”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

This is nothing but a re-emphasis of the civil-military fusion model followed by China. The PLA regularly uses Chinese universities and other organizations to accelerate military research which is then applied to develop defense equipment. The West has been critical of this approach, seeing it as a potential threat of the proliferation of sensitive information through collaborations with other international universities.

Apart from the traditional domains of national security, air, land, and sea, the new law also pushes focus on cybersecurity, space, and electromagnetics. The amendment also reads that China “will participate in global security governance, join multilateral security talks and push for and set up a set of international rules that is widely accepted, fair and reasonable”, the state media reported.

In addition, Song Zhongping said that Taiwan media interpreted the “development interests” as an excuse to wage a war, arguing that the Chinese mainland could “attack Taiwan at any time.” Rejecting such claims, he said while it is not the case, the national defense law and the potential national unification law are designed to safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests which involve the Taiwan question.

“If the Taiwan question remains unresolved and the island continues to be manipulated by the West, it will impair China’s development interests and thus lead the two sides of across the Straits into huge internal friction. This will greatly hamper the development of the Chinese mainland as a whole. Therefore, solving the Taiwan question is key to safeguarding national interests,” he wrote.

An expert talking to SCMP said that China’s addition of “development interest” is a reason for armed mobilization and war, and the law would provide legal grounds for the country to launch a war in the legitimate name of defending national development interests.

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