Chinese State Council hands over war powers over to military

China has expanded the power of its Central Military Commission (CMC) – headed by President Xi Jinping – to mobilise military and civilian resources in defence of the national interest, both at home and abroad, the South China Morning Post reports.

Revisions to the National Defence Law, effective from January 1st, weaken the role of the State Council – China’s cabinet – in formulating military policy, handing decision-making powers to the CMC.

For the first time, “disruption” and protection of “development interests” have been added to the legislation as grounds for the mobilisation and deployment of troops and reserve forces.

“The CMC is now formally in charge of making national defence policy and principles, while the State Council becomes a mere implementing agency to provide support to the military,” said Zeng Zhiping, a military law expert at Soochow University, who is also a retired PLA lieutenant colonel.

“It’s a big contrast when compared with developed countries like Israel, Germany and France, which prefer to put their armed forces under civilian leadership. Even in the US, the civilian-led defence ministry plays a more important role than their military top brass, the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

The law revision is a symbolic battle call by the party to warn all Chinese people to be combat-ready for a nationwide defence mobilisation, which the party has never done since it came to power in 1949.

Taipei-based military expert Chi Le-yi

The amendments were passed by the National People’s Congress on December 26th, after two years of deliberation.

Three articles were removed, more than 50 were amended, while there were six additions. In a media conference earlier in December, a spokesperson for the CMC’s legislative affairs bureau said the changes gave the PLA a clear direction in its modernisation and development goals.

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