NEW DELHI: In a move to expand the power of its Central Military Commission (CMC), the Xi Jinping government in China has amended its National Defence Law to mobilise military and civilian resources in defence of the ‘national interest’ at home and abroad.
The new law, effective from January 1, weaken the role of the State Council, China’s Cabinet headed by Premier Li Keqiang and aims at further consolidation of power in the hands of President Xi. With this move, Xi would not only be commanding the army through direct orders but also through his ideology as a guiding force, and thus the division between philosophy of CPC and the Army have been sidelined. 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.
Amended law to ensure military personnel’s loyalty towards CCP
One of the major objectives of the NDL-2020 is to ensure the loyalty of military personnel towards the Communist Party of China (CCP). The NDL-2020 chalks out the responsibilities of all party/state/military organizations and individuals on matters of national defence and makes them obligatory and legally binding. It mandates all members of the armed forces to abide by the directions of the party even if they are not members of the Party.
The centrality of Xi Jinping, who already holds the posts of Communist Party of China’s (CPC) General Secretary and Chairman of Central Military Commission, besides being the President of the People’s Republic of China, would be further fortified through the new law. While decisions on the declaration of a state of war would be taken by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the power of declaring a state of war rests with the President of the People’s Republic of China.
Military power headed by Xi Jinping expanded
The law makes the definition and scope of national interest more inclusive by expanding it to cover space, electromagnetic spectrum, cyberspace and country’s developmental interest, besides the traditional areas of land, air and sea. The aim seemingly is to ensure intervention of Xi-controlled army in the civil, commerce and technical area as well. This would also enable Xi’s administration to easily frame charges of treason and subversion on those who do not fall in line with the CPC’s ideologies or instructions.
The broadened scope of armed forces would thereby be the justification for the creation of new forces of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) such as PLA Rocket Force, PLA Strategic Support Force and PLA Joint Logistic Support Force. The goal primarily is to increase China’s military strength.
The NDL-2020 establishes a military welfare guarantee system that would be coordinated with the development of the national economy. It further emphasizes guaranteeing the status of military personnel by incorporating the clause ‘make military personnel a profession respected by the whole of society’. The military welfare guarantee system makes the military profession more lucrative resulting in the better intake of more qualified personnel at the entry-level. At the same time, the guaranteed stature of military personnel is meant for forcibly making its citizens to accept the supremacy of armed forces.
Military power strengthened over state council
Moreover, the law provides for the establishment of a ‘coordination mechanism’ between the State Council and the CCP’s Central Military Commission to discuss important defence matters. This infuses Xi Jinping’s favoured concept of ‘military-civil fusion/integration’ in the country’s defence law as well as further consolidating his centrality as he would be entitled to directly/indirectly take all the important military decisions.
Experts believe, “The new NDL specifies that Chinese armed forces could be engaged as per the Chinese laws to protect Chinese citizens, organizations, institutions and facilities abroad. The concept was roped in earlier through the Military Strategy paper released in 2015 and is being fortified under the new NDL. This would be used to justify overseas unilateral military actions undertaken by China. Moreover, it also indicates that China is likely to be more aggressive in its overseas actions on the pretext of national defence and security of its entities abroad, undermining the international laws even when it is participating in international organizations.”
Such unilateral military actions overseas have cost China a pan-global confrontation. The same was even asserted by Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe in his statement that “the changes incorporated in the NDL were ‘urgently needed’ in view of the heightened state of ‘strategic rivalry around the world”.
China‘s NDL-2020 reinforces the primacy of CCP in all dimensions of national defence and security. This new law is in line with China’s intermediary military reforms brought in by Xi’s administration in the past and enforces PLA’s centrality to the CCP and thereby Xi Jinping himself. It aims to empower the Chinese military for a wider domestic and global role.
This presents an almost certain potential threat to global peace as the world might witness intensified military offensives by Chinese armed forces in foreign countries in the coming times.