China’s ‘other than war’ military operations take effect

President Xi has signed new order legalizing Chinese troops’ missions to ‘safeguard sovereignty, security, development interests’.

China’s ‘other than war’ military operations take effect

A new set of regulations promulgated by China’s President Xi Jinping on the country’s military operations has taken effect from Wednesday, the state media has reported.

The order signed by Xi has been called “military operations other than war.”

However, not much is known about the new regulations, called “trial outlines” by the state media, discussed in 59 chapters for the country's military, the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

“The outlines will standardize, and provide the legal basis for Chinese troops to carry out missions like disaster relief, humanitarian aid, escort, and peacekeeping, and safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests,” the Chinese daily Global Times reported.

The new outlines “summarize experiences accumulated from past missions and practices, draw results from both military and civilian research, and standardize the basic principles, organization and command, types of activities, activity support and political work, providing the legal basis for the troops to carry out military operations other than war,” it added.

Xi, also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, signed the order on Monday.

The report said the new order aims to “prevent and neutralize risks and challenges, handle emergencies, protect people and property, and safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and world peace and regional stability.”

“Military operations other than war refer to operations that do not involve war, like disaster relief and humanitarian aid, as well as operations that limit the scale of the use of force like maritime escorts and peacekeeping,” the daily quoted an unnamed Chinese military expert.

Besides handling domestic operations including the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, the Chinese armed forces have also been involved in counter-terrorism, anti-pirate and peacekeeping missions including in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia as well as UN peacekeeping missions.

The Chinese daily said that “by carrying out these operations overseas, the Chinese troops can prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects, and personnel.”

The promulgation of the new order for the PLA comes on the heels of China signing a security deal with the Solomon Islands under which Beijing trains and equips the police officers of the South Pacific island nation.

In case of social unrest, China can also deploy its police officers to the island nation, according to sketchy details of the deal which have not been made fully public yet.

China has also engaged in mass voluntary activities to help many developing nations during the pandemic and natural disasters where its military has been directly involved. Tonga has become the latest case where the Chinese navy delivered aid after the island nation was hit by an earthquake and a volcano.

“The only new item is the creation of a legal basis for escort ships and response to the increased presence of other navies,” said Einar Tangen, a senior fellow at the Beijing-based Taihe Institute.

He said China’s closer trade relations with Southeast Asian nations “will mean China’s assistance when there are humanitarian or disaster issues.”

“Overall, it gives China more flexibility, at a time when the number of military exercises and naval presence has been increasing for the last five years,” said Tangen, referring to the South China Sea.

Hüseyin Demir

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