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New law spells out military powers in time of warStaff Reporter and Reuters in Beijing27 February 2010China has passed a new law formally granting the military the power to control banking, energy and foreign-invested factories on the mainland in times of war or major disaster.It is the first time China has put into writing the rights of the military to mobilise civilian resources in times of crisis. The law also spells out how and when affected civilian sectors should be compensated.The new law also provides a clearer definition of the responsibilities and rights of civilian companies that supply products for national defence. It says the government should give subsidies and preferred treatment to such companies and compensate them if they have to make changes to their production plans to meet the army’s demands.Bai Zixing, director of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Staff Mobilisation Department, said foreign or joint-venture companies would also be allowed to bid for national defence contracts.There has never been any doubt that the PLA would have few limits to tap into civilian resources if China was faced with war. But the new law puts these rights and obligations in formal print.The National Defence Mobilisation Law was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress ahead of the full body’s annual meeting, beginning next week.The bill was “very necessary to respond to various kinds of threats to national defence and security”, Sun Zhenping, director of the national law office in the NPC Standing Committee’s legal work committee, told the same press conference.“At present, our national defence and security situation is generally stable,” Sun said. “But traditional and non-traditional threats to security still exist.”Officials said the law “filled in a blank” regarding specific powers to commandeer workers and resources.The law empowers the State Council and the Central Military Commission to mobilise the civilian sector in the event of war or “threats to national sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity and security”.The government can “exercise oversight and administration of finance, transport, post and telecommunications, news media, broadcasting, film, television and the internet, energy and water supplies, medicine and health care, food and grain supplies, and commerce and trade”, it says.Citizens can also be conscripted into the military and businesses made to turn over facilities for military production. “The state will implement a system for strategic resources reserves and transfers suited to national defence mobilisation needs,” the law says.Sun said the law would not apply to the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.The law comes amid rapid development and restructuring of the military. The PLA - tightly controlled by the Communist Party - has traditionally been relatively insulated from civilian sectors.Under new thinking of “greater security”, Chinese leaders have stressed that the military needs to revise its strategy in response to fast-changing external and internal conditions.Beijing now believed the likelihood of China entering into a major war with a foreign power was remote and that the cross-strait relationship had improved so much that an armed conflict looked unlikely in the near future. Instead, the army should focus more on dealing with non- conventional security threats such as terrorist attacks and major disasters.Working closely with the booming civilian sector could help in achieving these goals.
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