Military works to shake off leadership traditions that date to feudal times

As the ongoing Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee discusses the rule of law, the People’s Liberation Army vowed to steadily promote the principle in military building and national defense.

President Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, urged army officials to run the PLA in accordance with laws and discipline, which Xi said “lays a solid foundation for a strong army”.

Professor Wang Fa’an of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences said the PLA has had a tradition of enforcing strict discipline during its 87-year history, but it is far from achieving a comprehensive rule of law.

The PLA has not shaken off the shadows of the “rule of man,” which was deeply rooted in China’s past feudal rule for thousands of years, Wang said.

The Chinese army arose and evolved from isolated revolutionary bases scattered in the country’s vast rural areas, and its management relied heavily on commanders’ experience and will.

Chairman Mao Zedong was determined to standardize the army and instill rule of law after the founding of New China in 1949, but efforts were hindered by political movements, including the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).

The PLA’s modernization drive calls for the transition from the “rule of man” to the “rule of law”, but it is no easy task, Wang said.

Wang pointed out some problems, such as soldiers and officers who would rather obey commanders’ orders than military laws and rules, and others who don’t know how to perform their duties without instructions from superiors. Soldiers’ weak legal awareness also hinders the rule of law in military operations, he said.

Wang said the military’s legal system has steadily improved. The top legislature revised the Military Service Law in 2011 for the third time. The PLA introduced a 17-article auditing regulation to step up the fight against corruption in the military in July.

The lack of external inspection and supervision of the military gives rise to problems such as waste and graft, he said, adding that loopholes in the military’s legal system have become lucrative opportunities for personal gain.

The PLA has stepped up oversight of its officers since last year, part of the CPC’s extensive campaign to root out extravagance and corruption. Not only “tigers” like Gu Junshan, a former senior military logistics officer, and Xu Caihou, former CMC vice-chairman, are under investigation, but military officers’ daily habits like gift-giving, vehicle use and travel are also subject to close scrutiny.

The PLA auditing regulation says that all such practices that the PLA auditing office uncovers will be transferred to military law enforcers.

Zhao Keshi, head of the PLA General Logistics Department, said auditors will watch over military funds, expenditures and assets closely. Zhao also said all economic activities of the military will be audited, and officers may not be promoted or retire without first going through the auditing process.

By XINHUA October 23, 2014 in China Daily