Chapter V The Military Service System
China practices a military service system which combines conscripts with volunteers and a militia with a reserve service. It is the glorious duty of the Chinese citizens to serve in the armed forces and join militia organizations according to law.
China practices an administration system of unified leadership and graded responsibility for military service work. Under the leadership of the State Council and the CMC, the Ministry of National Defense assumes responsibility for the military service work throughout the country. The military area commands are responsible for the military service work in their respective areas in accordance with the directions of the Ministry of National Defense. The provincial commands (garrison commands), sub-commands (garrison commands) and the people's armed forces departments of counties, autonomous counties, cities and municipal districts concurrently act as the military service organs of the people's governments at corresponding levels and are responsible for the military service work in their respective areas under the leadership of the military organs at higher levels and the people's governments at corresponding levels. The government organs, public organizations, enterprises and institutions and the people's governments of townships, ethnic townships and towns accomplish their military service work in accordance with the provisions of the Military Service Law. Professional work concerning military service is handled by the people's armed forces departments, or by the designated departments where there are no people's armed forces departments.
Active service is the principal form in which Chinese citizens perform their military service obligations. The citizens in active service in the PLA are servicemen in active service, consisting of officers in active service, civil cadres and soldiers in active service.
Officers in active service are the servicemen who hold posts at or above the platoon level or junior specialized technical level, and are conferred corresponding military ranks. They are classified as operational, political, logistics, armaments and specialized technical officers. The Law of the PRC on Officers in Active Service stipulates that the main sources of officers in active service are: graduates of schools or academies in the military, who are originally selected to study there from among outstanding soldiers and graduates of regular secondary schools; graduates of regular institutions of higher learning; civil cadres in the military; and specialized technicians and other persons recruited from outside the military. In war, soldiers, enlisted reserve officers, and persons in non-military departments may be directly appointed as active officers as needed.
The PLA institutes a post-based military rank system for officers. Military ranks for officers in active service are divided into 10 grades in three categories: general, lieutenant general and major general; senior colonel, colonel, lieutenant colonel and major; captain, first lieutenant and second lieutenant. The posts at and below the level of the military area command are: military area command, corps, division, regiment, battalion, company and platoon. The highest military rank for specialized technical officers is lieutenant general, and their professional levels are graded into senior, intermediate and junior.
Soldiers in active service are composed of conscripts based on compulsory military service (referred to as conscripts) and volunteers based on volunteer military service (referred to as non-commissioned officers). Non-commissioned officers are chosen from conscripts who have completed their terms of active service, and may be recruited from citizens with professional skills in non-military organizations. The term of service for conscripts in active service is two years. A system of active service for different terms is adopted for non-commissioned officers. The first two terms are three years each, the third and fourth terms four years each, the fifth term five years, and the sixth term nine years or longer. Non-commissioned officers are divided into two categories: specialized-technical and non-specialized-technical. The term of active service for the former ranges from the first to the sixth, and the latter and women non-commissioned officers serve, in principle, only the first term.
The lowest military rank for soldiers in active service is private, and the highest is non-commissioned officer of the sixth grade. Conscripts in their first year of service are of the rank of private, and rise to the rank of private first class in their second year. The military ranks for non-commissioned officers are divided into six grades in three categories. The first two grades are junior non-commissioned officers, the third and fourth grades are intermediate non-commissioned officers, and the fifth and sixth grades are senior non-commissioned officers.
Reserve service is divided into reserve service for officers and reserve service for soldiers. Citizens registered for reserve service are reservists.
Reserve officers are chosen mainly from officers and civil cadres who have been discharged from active service, soldiers who have been discharged from active service, cadres of the people's armed forces departments and the militia, graduates from non-military institutions of higher learning, and other citizens who meet the qualifications of reserve officers. Reserve officers who hold posts in reserve forces, or are pre-regimented to active forces are reserve officers of Category One, and the other reserve officers are in Category Two. Reserve officers are classified as operational, political, logistics, armaments, and specialized technical officers and their posts are classified as division, regiment, battalion, company and platoon levels, and for specialized technical officers, as senior, intermediate and junior levels. The military ranks for reserve officers are divided into eight grades in three categories: reserve major general; reserve senior colonel, colonel, lieutenant colonel and major; reserve captain, first lieutenant and second lieutenant. Reserve soldiers range in age from 18 to 35. On the basis of age and military qualities, they are classified into Category One and Category Two.
The number of conscripts enlisted into active service in China every year, and the requirements and time for their enlistment are prescribed by order of the State Council and the CMC. The provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government make arrangements for enlistment in their respective areas in accordance with the enlistment order of the State Council and the CMC. Enlistment in peacetime usually takes place once a year.
The Military Service Law of the PRC stipulates that male citizens who reach the age of 18 by December 31 each year are eligible for enlistment for active service. Those who are not enlisted that year remain eligible for enlistment until the age of 22. Female citizens may also be enlisted, if necessary. Male citizens reaching the age of 18 before December 31 should register for military service before September 30 of the same year. Citizens who meet the required conditions for active service are enlisted into active service after gaining approval from the military service organs of their own counties, autonomous counties, cities or municipal districts. If a citizen qualified for enlistment is the only supporter of his or her family or is a student in a full-time school, his or her enlistment may be postponed. Citizens who are kept in custody for investigations, legal proceedings or trials, or who are serving sentences or are under criminal detention or surveillance may not be enlisted.
Active officers who have reached the maximum age limit for peacetime active service should be discharged from active service. Those who have not yet reached the maximum age limit or have not served the minimum term limit for peacetime active service may be discharged from active service in special circumstances after gaining approval. Soldiers who have completed their term of active service should be discharged from active service.
The state makes proper arrangements for officers and civil cadres who have been discharged from active service. The main modes of arrangement are transference to civilian work, demobilization and retirement. Transference to civilian work is the principal mode of arrangement for officers and civil cadres discharged from active service. Administrative organs for resettlement of officers and civil cadres who have been transferred to civilian work or have retired, are set up at the national level and at the level of the province (autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government), and, if necessary, corresponding organs may be set up at the level of the city (prefecture). The General Political Department is responsible for the overall administration of the PLA resettlement work for officers and civil cadres who have been transferred to civilian work or have retired.
Since 2001, the Central Committee of the CPC, the State Council and the CMC have promulgated and implemented the Provisional Measures for Resettlement of Officers and Civil Cadres Transferred to Civilian Work and related regulations and policies, providing for execution of the resettlement mode to civilian work, whereby the state planned assignment of jobs and posts is combined with finding jobs by oneself. Officers at the level of division or regiment or at battalion-level with 18 years of military service (including civil cadres at the corresponding levels and specialized technical officers who enjoy corresponding status) can either be assigned civilian jobs according to the unified plan or choose to find jobs by themselves. Those at or below the battalion level with less than 18 years of military service are assigned civilian work under the unified plan. The Party committees and governments are responsible for arranging jobs and posts for officers and civil cadres transferred to civilian work. Those who choose to find jobs by themselves may seek assistance from the government in their job-finding and are entitled to a monthly-paid service-discharge pension for life long with exemption from income tax. Officers and civil cadres transferred to civilian work may settle at their native places or the places where they were enlisted, or settle at the places where their spouses lived before moving to accompany the servicemen or where they were married. When they meet the required conditions, they may also settle at the places where their parents, their spouses' parents, their spouses or their children are permanent residents, or at the places where their troops are stationed.
When conscripts have been discharged from active service, the people's government of the county where they were enlisted makes appropriate arrangements for them, depending on whether they are from the countryside or city and whether they have received any awards for meritorious service. Non-commissioned officers are resettled and arranged as transference to civilian work, demobilization, or retirement from active service according to their terms of service.
Table 3: Maximum Age Limits for Active Officers Holding Posts in Peacetime