China’s new defence law expands power of its military

At a time when China is at loggerheads with US and India, Beijing has revised its National Defence Law, expanding the power of its armed forces to mobilise military and civilian resources to defend its national interests both at home and abroad.
The new law, effective from January 1, weakens the role of the State Council, China’s Cabinet headed by Premier Li Keqiang, in formulating military policy, handing decision-making powers to the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high-command of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) headed by President Xi Jinping.
The amendments for the National Defence Law (NDL) were passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on December 26 last year.
The revised law came into force after the key conclave of the ruling CPC in November last year finalised plans to build a fully modern military on par with the US by 2027.
By the year 2027, China will build a fully modern military, a goal that is in alignment with the national strength and will fulfil the future national defence need, official media reports earlier said.
The revised law specifically stresses the need to build a nationwide coordination mechanism for the mobilisation of state-owned and private enterprises to take part in research into new defence technologies covering conventional weapons, as well as the non-traditional domains of cybersecurity, space and electromagnetics.
According to military and political analysts, the new NDL is aimed to strengthen the country’s military leadership under Xi, providing it with the legal grounds to respond to the challenges of accelerating confrontations between China and the US.
Deng Yuwen, a former deputy editor of the Communist Party publication Study Times, said the amendments aimed to legalise and formally apply the “special” nature of China’s political and defence system when dealing with situations that could harm the regime at home and abroad.
“China’s political nature is very different from many countries…it’s not surprising for Beijing to enhance the leadership of the CMC when the PLA is going out to defend China’s national interests across the world,” Deng said.
Chen Daoyin, a former professor of Political Science and Law at the Shanghai University, said the changes showed the regime had gained the confidence to legitimise its long-standing principle that “the party commands the gun”.
“The move to include development interests’ as a reason for armed mobilisation and war in the law would provide legal grounds for the country to launch a war in the legitimate name of defending national development interests,” Chen said.