Amendments to China’s National Defense Law this month indicate that Beijing is shifting its defense policy to make it easier for it to launch a war, a defense analyst said.
Lin Cheng-jung (林政榮), a visiting research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, made the assessment in a paper released on Tuesday last week.
The Chinese National People’s Congress ratified the amendments on Dec. 26 last year, and they took effect on Jan. 1.
The law, which was introduced in 1997, serves as the parent legislation of all Chinese military regulations, Lin said.
Through this month’s revisions, Beijing has laid the groundwork for giving it the legal authority to launch war pre-emptively, Lin said.
The possibility of China waging war has increased significantly under the amendments, which allow Beijing to mobilize paramilitary forces, such as the Chinese People’s Armed Police and the Chinese militia, in a conflict.
One of the revisions added a provision permitting Beijing to “defend its national interests and development interests, and resolve differences with the use of force,” giving China a wider scope for using force, he said.
According to Article 47 of the amended law, the government could fully or partially “mobilize its forces,” when its sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, security and development interests are threatened.
The terminology “development interests” likely encompasses matters concerning the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea and Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), nontraditional threats, overseas interests, and security in space and on the Internet, Lin said.
The change reflects a major shift in its defense strategy, with an emphasis on “pre-emptive defense” rather than “active defense,” especially regarding “matters affecting its national security or development interests,” Lin wrote.
Active defense refers to the use of limited offensive action and counterattacks to repel an enemy attack, while pre-emptive defense means taking unilateral action against a perceived threat.
“This might translate to China being proactive on the battlefield by initiating a limited attack against aggressors or secession forces, and by seeking support from its allies,” he said, citing China-Iran-Russia joint military exercises in 2017 as an indication of such a trend.
In another paper written by Lin, released on the institute’s Web site on Friday, he said that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is stepping up its joint warfare capabilities to increase the effectiveness of its military.
This would help its armed forces branches work together and complement each other in joint operations, rather than executing military operations independently.
The paper, titled “Strategic Implications of the PLA’s Trial Implementation Guidelines to Promote Joint Combat Operations,” said that Beijing’s implementation of the guidelines in November last year showed that the PLA was increasingly focused on improving the joint operations capabilities of its branches.
It would be difficult for the PLA to reach that goal in the short term, Lin said, adding that Beijing was inexperienced in modern warfare, and it’s military units lacked training and parochialism.
Other factors include the compatibility of weapon systems between branches and the coordination of command chains, Lin added.
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