New amendments to National Defence Law push China close to war: Scholar

Taipei: The Chinese Government’s recent amendments to its National Defense Law indicate that China has shifted its defense strategy to a more pre-emptive posture, making it more likely that it wages war, according to an expert with a government-funded think tank in Taiwan.

According to Focus Taiwan, the assessment was made in a paper by Lin Cheng-jung, a visiting research fellow from Taiwan’s military at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), which was posted on the institute’s website on January 12.

Lin said that the National Defense Law, which was introduced in 1997, serves as the ‘parent law’ of all Chinese military laws and argued that through the revisions, Beijing has laid the groundwork for giving legal legitimacy to launching a war.

The amendments to the National Defence Law were approved by China’s National People’s Congress on December 26 and took effect on January 1.

Focus Taiwan further reported that the possibility of China waging a war has “increased significantly” because the amendments added a condition under which the state can mobilize its forces, including the military and paramilitary forces, such as the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force and the China Militia.

It further stated that one of the revisions added the term “development interests” to a provision permitting President Xi Jinping led-government to “defend its national interests and development interests, and resolve differences with the use of force”.

“Judging from current international circumstances, the phrase “development interests” encompasses the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea, and Diaoyutai (Senkaku) Islands issues, non-traditional threats, overseas interests, and security in space and on the internet,” Lin said as quoted by Focus Taiwan.

“The change reflects a major shift in its defense strategy, Lin said, with the emphasis now on “pre-emptive defense” rather than “active defense,” “especially when related to matters affecting its national security or development interests,” Lin wrote.

Active defense means the use of limited offensive action and counterattacks to repel an enemy attack, while pre-emptive defense refers to taking unilateral action against a threat that is merely perceived.

“This may translate to China being proactive in the battlefield by initiating a limited attack against its aggressors or secession forces, and by seeking support from its allies,” he said, citing the China-Iran-Russia joint military exercise in 2017 as an indication of such a trend.

Lin said that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is currently stepping up its joint warfare capabilities to increase the effectiveness of its military, in another paper published.

The paper, titled ” Strategic Implications of the PLA’s Trial Implementation Guidelines to Promote Joint Combat Operations,” said that China’s implementation of the guidelines in November 2020 showed that the PLA has made the improvement of its joint operations capabilities a top priority.

“It will be hard for the PLA to achieve the goal in the short term, citing its lack of experience in modern warfare, the lack of training in that field, and parochialism among military branches,” Lin noted.