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China's new ‘Military Service Law' aims to address recruitment difficulties

The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) adopted on 20 August a new version of the country's ‘Military Service Law' aimed at improving recruitment into the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and better aligning the military with national policies and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The new legislation, which includes 11 chapters and 65 articles, is designed to tackle the issue of recruiting and keeping highly educated recruits in the PLA. Furthermore, it is aimed at gradually moving the PLA away from a conscription-based military and towards one based on volunteers.

Beijing considers university graduates as necessary to transform the PLA into a more professional and modernised military. To achieve this, the new law provides both incentives and punishments.

For example, the recruitment age for graduate students has been raised from 22 to 24, while that for postgraduate students has been increased from 24 to 26. Moreover, the new law emphasises that the rights of female soldiers, including those relating to childbirth and healthcare, are legally protected. On the other hand, the revised legislation increases penalties for those refusing to perform military service.

It will come into effect on 1 October – the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is the fifth version of China's ‘Military Service Law', which was first introduced in 1984 and later amended in 1998, 2009, and 2011.

On 23 August, Sheng Bin, the head of the National Defense Mobilisation Department at China's Central Military Commission (CMC), said in a statement carried by the NPC that the previous version of the law had become “incompatible” with current economic, social, and military trends and conditions in China, adding that work on the latest version had begun in June 2017.

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