III. National Defense Construction

China's national defense construction is an important part of its modernization program. Given the new historical conditions the Chinese army upholds the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), implements the strategic principle of active defense, emphasizes quality in army building, administrates the armed forces along legal lines, engages in army building through diligence and thrift, and actively participates in and supports national economic construction. As a result, it has made great contributions to the country's security, stability and modernization drive.

Defense System

In accordance with the Constitution, the National Defense Law and other relevant laws, China has established and improved its national defense system. The state exercises unified leadership over defense-related activities.

The National People's Congress (NPC) of the PRC is the highest organ of state power. It decides on the questions of war and peace, and exercises other defense-related functions and powers provided for in the Constitution. The Standing Committee of the NPC is the NPC's permanent body. It decides on the proclamation of a state of war, decides on general or partial mobilization, and exercises other defense-related functions and powers provided for in the Constitution. The president of the state, in accordance with decisions of the NPC and its Standing Committee, proclaims a state of war, issues mobilization orders and exercises other defense-related functions and powers provided for in the Constitution. The State Council directs and administrates national defense work, and the Central Military Commission (CMC) directs and assumes unified command of the nation's armed forces.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is organized in accordance with a system whereby the General Staff Department, the General Political Department, the General Logistics Department and the General Armament Department are placed under the leadership of the CMC. The General Staff Department organizes and leads the building-up of the nation's armed forces, and organizes and directs their military operations. The General Political Department administrates the army's Party work and organizes and conducts its political work. The General Logistics Department organizes and leads the army's logistics work. The General Armament Department organizes and leads the army's work in military equipment.

The armed forces of the PRC are composed of the PLA, both the active and reserve components, the Chinese People's Armed Police Force and the militia. The active components of the PLA comprise the state's standing army, which mainly undertakes the task of defensive combat, and helps to maintain social order, if necessary, according to law; reservists undergo military training in peacetime according to relevant regulations, and help to maintain social order, if necessary, according to law, and in wartime they shall be incorporated in the forces in active service in pursuance of the state's mobilization order. The Chinese People's Armed Police Force undertakes the tasks for maintenance of security and social order entrusted by the state. The militiamen, under the command of military organs, perform combat service support and defensive operations, and help to maintain social order. The PLA, comprised of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Second Artillery Force, is organized in seven military area commands nationwide.

The state exercises unified leadership and planned control over defense research and production. The State Council leads and administrates defense research and production, as well as defense expenditure and assets. The CMC approves the military equipment system of the armed forces and military equipment development plans and programs, leads and administrates defense research and production in coordination with the State Council, and manages defense outlays and assets jointly with the State Council. The state practices a state military supplies order system to guarantee the acquisition of weapons and other war materials. The state practices a financial allocation system for defense spending. It decides the size, structure and location of the defense assets and the adjustment and disposal of these assets in accordance with the needs of national defense and economic construction.

The State Council and the CMC jointly lead mobilization preparation and implementation work. In peacetime the state conducts mobilization preparation and integrates armed mobilization of the people, mobilization of the national economy, civil air defense, national defense transportation and other mobilization preparations into the state's overall development plan and program. It improves the mobilization system step by step, and establishes a strategic materials storage system. The state attaches importance to national defense education and conducts it in line with its plan for economic and social development.

Military Legislative Work

China attaches importance to the building of a military legal system, regarding the improvement of the work in this regard as a basic approach and important guarantee for realizing defense modernization and the regularization of the armed forces. In order to meet the needs of defense and army building in the new historical period, the state has laid down the principles for administrating the armed forces along legal lines. It has improved its military legislative work comprehensively to ensure that China's defense and army building advance along a legal track and to propel it in that direction.

Since 1982 the military legislation system has been further fine-tuned as part of the state legislation system: The NPC and its Standing Committee have formulated laws on defense and army building; the CMC has formulated military laws and regulations, or jointly worked out military administrative laws and regulations with the State Council; all general departments, all services and arms and all military area commands of the PLA have drawn up military rules and regulations or jointly worked out military administrative rules and regulations with the relevant departments of the State Council. The Interim Regulations on Legislative Procedures of the PLA promulgated by the CMC contains clear-cut provisions on legislation programming and planning and the drafting, examination, promulgation and enforcement of laws and regulations, which embody the standardization and systemization of military legislation.

Over the past ten-odd years, remarkable achievements have been made in military legislation. The NPC and its Standing Committee have formulated 12 defense and army-building laws and legality-related decisions, including the National Defense Law of the PRC, Military Service Law of the PRC, Military Facilities Protection Law of the PRC, Civil Air Defense Law of the PRC, Law on the Reserve Officers of the PRC, the Garrison Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC, Military Service Regulations Pertaining to PLA Officers in Active Service, and Regulations on the Military Ranks of PLA Officers. The State Council and the CMC have worked out 40-odd military administrative laws and regulations, such as the Regulations on National Defense Transportation, Regulations on Conscription Work, Regulations on Militia Work, and Military Service Regulations Pertaining to PLA Soldiers in Active Service. The CMC has formulated 70-odd military laws and regulations, including the Regulations of the PLA Headquarters, Regulations on Political Work in the PLA, Logistics Regulations of the PLA, Routine Service Regulations of the PLA, Discipline Regulations of the PLA, and Drill Regulations of the PLA. The various general departments, services and arms and military area commands have drawn up 1,000-some items of military rules and regulations. Now, China has laws to go by basically in the principal aspects of its defense and army building, as a military legal system with Chinese characteristics now is initially in place. While adhering to the principle of suiting military legislation to its national and military conditions, China also lays stress on bringing it into line with the international military-related treaties and agreements that China has acceded to, so as to make China's military laws consistent in content with international legal norms and practices.

In the sphere of national defense construction, China has set up and improved its defense leading system and operating mechanism at both the central and local levels in accordance with the law, together with basic national defense systems and institutions, such as those of military service, mobilization, research and production, assets management and military facilities protection, as well as those of giving special care to the bereaved families of servicemen. In the area of army building, the principles defining the nature, tasks and building of the armed forces have been determined in accordance with the law, and a series of important systems and institutions are in operation, such as those of military ranks and insignia, military training, headquarters work, political work, logistic support, garrison service, and military discipline-related rewards and penalties, which ensure that national defense activities and army building can be carried out in an orderly manner, within a legal framework and along a regulatory line.

In order to guarantee the unified implementation of the nation's relevant laws and regulations in the armed forces, the state has established mechanisms of military law enforcement and military judicature, military legal institutions and legal service organizations, forming a fairly complete military legal system in the armed forces. The military-law enforcement system is mainly formed of relevant leading organs and functional departments at various levels. Besides, discipline inspection organs and financial auditing organs have been set up in units at and above the corps level, which carry out supervision and inspection over law enforcement, and garrison service organs in garrison units in large and medium-sized cities, which check, inspect and handle cases of infringements of military discipline by military personnel as well as cases of violations of relevant rules by military vehicles. The military judicial system is composed of military courts and procuratorates established by the state at the three levels of the PLA, the military area command and the corps, which, together with the PLA's security departments at various levels, exercise their respective functions and powers and handle criminal cases involving military personnel in accordance with the law. The military legal system is composed of the legal organs or personnel authorized by the Bureau of Legislative Affairs of the CMC, the various general departments, services and arms and military areas commands, and are in charge of the legal work of the entire PLA as well as the various army units. The legal service organizations are composed of legal advice offices and legal counseling stations of the army units at various levels, which provide legal advice and services to help leading military organs at various levels to make decisions as well as for individual officers and men. By the end of 1997, over 240 legal advice offices with more than 1,360 lawyers had been set up by the PLA units, in addition to more than 4,250 legal counseling stations with 65,700-some legal consultants at the grassroots level.

China attaches importance to promoting publicity and education in the law in the armed forces, bringing it into the orbit of the army's regular education and training. In order to equip officers and men with knowledge of the law in accordance with the state's unified plan on publicity and education in the law for all citizens, the Chinese armed forces carried out two sessions of the Five-Year Legal Education Program from 1986 to 1995. The Third Five-Year Legal Education Program started early in 1996.

Defense Expenditure

China has always stressed rationally scaled expenditure on defense. The costs of defense are allocated based on the needs of defense and the country's financial capacities and the principle of overall balance. Since the introduction of the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, the Chinese government has strictly controlled its defense expenditure at a comparatively low level so that it can concentrate on economic construction.

The Chinese government has consistently stuck to the principle of strict control, strict management and strict supervision of defense spending; it has established and perfected a complete administrative and regulatory system. China's defense budget and final accounts are examined and approved by the NPC, and the state and army's auditing organs exercise strict audit and supervision of the execution of the budget.

China's expenditure on national defense falls into the following categories: personnel expenses, mainly including pay, food and clothing of military and non-military personnel; costs for maintenance of activities, mainly including military training, construction and maintenance of facilities and running expenses; and costs for equipment, including research and experimentation, procurement, maintenance, transportation and storage. In terms of the scope of logistic support, these expenditures cover not only active service personnel, but also militia and reserve requirements. In addition, a large amount of spendings are used to fund activities associated with social welfare, mainly pensions for some of the retired officers, schools and kindergartens for children of military personnel, training personnel competent for both military and civilian services, supporting national economic construction, and participation in emergency rescues and disaster relief efforts.

Plain living and hard working is a fine tradition of the Chinese armed forces. China's military personnel have launched a sequence of mass movements for practicing economy, such as conducting checkups of warehouses to make better use of the stored goods and repairing or utilizing old or discarded things. They have also done everything they can to join in agricultural and sideline production or engage in business, mainly for the purpose of providing employment for dependents of military personnel and improving the material and cultural lives of officers and men in grassroots units.

Since the introduction of the policies of reform and opening to the outside world the Chinese government has placed work in national defense in a position subordinate to and in the service of overall national economic construction and has made relatively major reductions in defense inputs. From 1979 to 1994 defense spending increased by 6.22 percent annually in absolute terms, which represented in real terms a negative growth of 1.08 percent compared to the 7.3 percent annual increase of the general retail price index of commodities in the same period.

China's annual defense outlay from 1995 to 1997 came to RMB 63.672, 72.006 and 81.257 billion yuan, respectively. The annual increase in defense outlay went for the most part to ensure that the living standards of military personnel keep up with the nation's social and economic development and with the increase of the per capita incomes of urban and rural residents, so as to improve the living conditions of officers and men. Even so, defense spending in the total state expenditure declined annually in the same period, accounting for 9.3, 9.1 and 8.8 percent respectively.

The composition of China's defense expenditure in 1997 (Table 1) was as follows: 29.162 billion yuan for personnel expenses, accounting for 35.89 percent; 26.536 billion yuan for maintenance of activities, 32.66 percent; and 25.559 billion yuan for equipment, 31.45 percent. From the above, we can see that most of the defense outlay went to the personnel's living costs and maintenance of normal activities. In addition, more than four billion yuan, or about 5 percent, was spent to fund activities associated with social welfare.

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Table 1 Composition of China's Defense Expenditure in 1997 (unit: billion yuan)

Compared with the defense expenditures of some other countries, China has a fairly low level of defense spending (Table 2).

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Table 2 Comparison of China's Defense Expenditure with Those of Some Other Countries in 1997 (unit: US$ billion)
Note: The exchange rate, calculated by China's State Administration of Exchange Control, was one US dollar=RMB 8.29 yuan in 1997.

Based on the above exchange rate, China's defense expenditure in 1997 was US$ 9.80 billion, which was 3.67 percent of the USA's, 61.25 percent of Russia's, 27.53 percent of Britain's, 26.7 percent of France's, 22.79 percent of Japan's, and 56.98 percent of the Republic of Korea's (ROK).

China's defense expenditure is low in relative terms, as well as in absolute terms. In the past two decades the percentage of China's defense expenditure in the gross domestic product (GDP) has declined successively (Table 3). Compared with the USA, Russia, Britain, France, Japan and the ROK, China has a comparatively low burden of defense expenditure (Table 4).

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Table 3 The Percentage of China's Defense Expenditure in the GDP in 1978-1997

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Table 4 Comparison of the Percentage of China's Defense Expenditure in the GDP and Total Financial Expenditure with Those of Some Other Countries in 1997
Notes: 1. Percentages of defense expenditure in total financial expenditure.
     Percentages of defense expenditure in the GDP.
    2. The above data are taken from defense, financial or other government reports announced by said countries.

Reducing Military Personnel

In September 1997 China solemnly announced that it would reduce the number of its military personnel by 500,000 within the coming three years on the basis of its disarmament move in the 1980s, which had cut the number by one million. This important strategic decision of unilateral disarmament once again fully expressed China's genuine wish for peace. It was a new effort made by China to further promote the lowering of the world's armament level, increase mutual trust and advance the cause of peace for humanity.

Adhering to the defensive policy for national security, China has always controlled the numbers and size of its armed forces within the limit allowed by the national strength and necessary to maintain state security. After the founding of the PRC in 1949, China undertook two disarmament steps -- one in 1955 and the other in 1958. In the mid-1980s China's guideline for army building was strategically shifted from all-time preparedness against a large-scale war of aggression to peacetime construction, and the size and structure of the armed forces were adjusted accordingly. In 1985 the government decided unilaterally to cut its troops by one million men in real terms. By 1990, the total reduction had reached 1.039 million men. Since 1990 the size of the PLA has further shrunk through successive adjustments. When the drawdown of 500,000 has been completed the total size of the PLA will be 2.5 million men.

Different from many other countries, China includes all its border and coastal defense forces, military service mobilization organs, administration organs of military-run agricultural and sideline productions, civil cadres and active service personnel in the reserve service forces in the overall strength of the PLA.

China's latest disarmament move will be carried out actively and steadily, and completed within the planned three years. The reductions in the land, naval and air forces account for 19 percent, 11.6 percent and 11 percent respectively. While the numbers of men are being reduced, steps are being taken in tandem to optimize the structure, adjust the composition and intra-relationship, and enhance the competence of the armed forces by enhancing their scientific and technological knowledge, so as to raise the modernization of the Chinese armed forces to a new level.

Participating in and Supporting National Construction

Participating in and supporting the country's construction is an important task entrusted by the Constitution to the Chinese armed forces, and a reflection of the fundamental purpose of the people's army -- to serve the people wholeheartedly. Since the 1980s, while fulfilling its education and training tasks, the Chinese army has taken an active part in and fully supported the nation's economic construction, and through this it has made significant contributions to the country's prosperity and development.

-- Turning military facilities over to the public or converting them to civilian use. While cutting down large numbers of personnel, the Chinese armed forces have transferred part of their military facilities to local authorities or opened them to the public to support the country's construction. Over the past 20 years China's armed forces have opened 101 airports to the public, and opened or surrendered 29 harbors and docks, more than 300 special railway lines, 90 telecommunications lines, 1,000-some warehouses and over three million square meters of land on former military reserves and some barracks facilities.

-- Participating in emergency rescues and disaster relief work. China has a vast territory, and local natural disasters are frequent. Whenever a natural disaster occurs, the armed forces are always in the forefront of efforts to protect the people's lives and save the state and people's property. Over the past two decades they have participated in emergency rescues and disaster reliefs on more than 100,000 occasions. They have mobilized more than 23 million men, and organized more than one million vehicle trips, and some 15,000 plane and ship journeys to save more than 10 million people and transport more than 200 million tons of materials out of perilous conditions.

-- Participating in the construction of key national and local projects. The armed forces have participated in the construction of many key national and local projects and undertaken urgent, difficult and dangerous tasks connected with them. In the past two decades they have devoted more than 400 million work days and organized 25 million vehicle trips to participate in and support 10,000-odd key projects, including 150 railway, expressway and underground railway projects, 340 tunnels and culverts, 260 bridges, 4,100 kilometers of highways and railways, 50 docks, 40 civil and military-civil airports, 500 energy projects, 2,000 water conservancy projects, 20,000 kilometers of optical cable telecommunication lines and 500 economic and technological development and tourism development projects.

-- Bringing the superiority of talented personnel and technology into full play and assisting people with the use of science and technology. Military academies, scientific research and medical units, as well as special technological units actively support national construction by transferring scientific and technological findings to the civilian sector or by offering it assistance in tackling key technical problems and personnel training. In the last ten years China's armed forces have supported more than 1,000 national economic construction projects with their advanced scientific and technological achievements, solved urgent and key problems for more than 150 scientific research projects, transferred 10,000-some scientific and technological findings to the civilian sector, trained nearly one million scientific and technological personnel, and helped civilian enterprises complete 900-odd technical transformation projects which enabled 320 enterprises to get out of the red and become profitable.

-- Supporting agriculture and assisting in poverty-relief and development efforts. China is a large agricultural country, so agriculture has always been the foundation of China's national economy. In the past decade, to support agricultural development China's armed forces have dredged more than 500 rivers, built 200,000-odd kilometers of irrigation channels and dams and dikes, dug more than 1,000 reservoirs, and reclaimed wasteland and leveled land of over two million hectares, thus laying a foundation for bumper harvests. Army units stationed in poverty-stricken areas have made great efforts to assist the local people to develop production, up to now helping nearly one million people in 23,000 poor areas get rid of poverty and live more comfortable lives. Especially, they have concentrated on helping the poor in 20 key areas in the Yimeng and Taihang mountains and other regions, assisting them to run 3,500-some village and township enterprises. Moreover, they have carried out 12,000 scientific and technological projects aimed at helping the poor to get rid of poverty, and offered agro-technique training courses to some 4.5 million people. Military medical organizations at various levels and army hospitals have sent medical teams to poor areas on 860 occasions, which have supported more than 8,100 township hospitals with medical equipment worth upwards of 20 million yuan, and given free training to more than 20,000 medical personnel.

-- Participating in work for the public good. In the past decade the PLA has devoted more than 100 million work days to the repair of bridges and roads, the tidying up and beautifying of the environment, and the repair and construction of water, gas and power supply projects. Altogether, it has completed over 100,000 projects for the public good and planted more than 400 million trees. Besides, it has contributed 41.5755 million yuan to the ``Hope Project,'' together with various kinds of goods and materials worth some 11 million yuan, and helped to build 697 ``Hope'' primary schools, which have enabled more than 115,000 dropouts to return to school.

-- Training personnel competent both for military and civilian services. The Chinese armed forces pay great attention to training qualified personnel for the country's economic construction. To meet the needs of national economic construction and the wishes of both officers and men, the Routine Service Regulations of the PLA stipulate that every Saturday may be reserved for training personnel competent for both military and civilian services. Saturdays are also when military personnel are organized to study scientific and cultural subjects. Since the early 1980s, when the PLA started to organize these special training courses, through on-the-job training nearly one million officers have received academic certificates at or above the junior college level; more than 85 percent of the ordinary soldiers have received in-service technical training, and nearly half of them have been awarded technician's certificates of various grades. When they leave active service they have become or will become an important force promoting the country's economic construction and the overall progress of Chinese society.

Stationing a Garrison in Hong Kong

The Chinese government resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1, 1997, and stationed a garrison of the PLA in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to take charge of its defense affairs. The stationing of the PLA troops in the Region is an important symbol of the Chinese government's resumption of exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. It is also an important guarantee for the preservation of state sovereignty and security and the maintenance of the Region's long-term prosperity and stability.

The PLA troops entered Hong Kong strictly in accordance with provisions of the law. The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC, passed at the Third Session of the Seventh NPC in April, 1990, clearly stipulated that the Central People's Government shall be responsible for administrating the defense affairs of the HKSAR. The Garrison Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC was approved at the 23rd meeting of the Standing Committee of the Eighth NPC in December 1996, and came into effect on July 1, 1997. The Garrison Law stipulates that the Hong Kong Garrison shall not interfere in the local affairs of the HKSAR; that its duties are to perform routine defense service, administrate military facilities, handle relevant foreign-related military affairs, and ensure the security and stability of Hong Kong; that its expenditures shall be borne by the Central People's Government; and that the garrison troops shall be rotated. The law contains specific provisions on the duties and rules of discipline of the garrison personnel, the judicature and other questions, fundamentally guaranteeing that the Hong Kong Garrison fulfils its defense functions along legal lines.

The PLA Hong Kong Garrison, composed of ground, naval and air forces, is under the direction of the Central Military Commission of the PRC. While performing its defense duties, the Hong Kong Garrison must abide by both national and HKSAR laws, as well as the current rules and regulations of the PLA.

After its entry into Hong Kong, the PLA Hong Kong Garrison abided strictly by the Basic Law and the Garrison Law, fulfilled its defense duties within legal framework, actively organized military training, strengthened army-building along regularization lines, studied Hong Kong's related laws, and acquainted the rank and file with the social conditions in Hong Kong. According to the Garrison Law, the Garrison established working contacts with the HKSAR government, and opened the barracks on the Stonecutters Island and Chek Chu to the public to promote Hong Kong compatriots' understanding of and trust in the garrison troops.

It is a long-term task for the PLA Hong Kong Garrison to fulfil its responsibility for Hong Kong's defense affairs. The garrison troops will consistently adhere to the principle of ``one country, two systems,'' strictly abide by the Basic Law and the Garrison Law, and contribute to the preservation of the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.