by Li Huizi and Yu Junjie
BEIJING, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- As the ongoing fourth plenary session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee discusses "rule of law," the People's Liberation Army (PLA) vowed to steadily promote the law in military building and national defense.
President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), urged army officials to run the PLA in accordance with laws and discipline, which Xi said "lays a solid foundation for a strong army."
The PLA has had a tradition of enforcing strict discipline during its 87 years of history, but it is far from achieving comprehensive rule of law, said Professor Wang Fa'an of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences.
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, professor 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.
Late 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 (1966-1976).
The PLA's modernization drive calls for the transition from the "rule of man" toward 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 duties without instructions from superiors. Servicemen's weak legal awareness also hinders rule of law in military operations, said Wang.
Tuesday's PLA Daily article by Major General Pan Liangshi, commander of the PLA Beijing Garrison Command, said existing military laws are incomplete and inconsistent, mainly covering the army's daily routine but lacking provisions for operational combat, which often causes confusion in joint exercises.
Pan suggested every aspect of the military, including training, battle and command, be done in accordance with rule of law, and commanders should have a legal mind.
RULE OF LAW
Facing a complicated and changing security situation, the PLA shoulders heavy tasks in safeguarding state sovereignty, security and development interests, according to the CMC bureau of legislative affairs, adding the PLA should expand its legal system to cover military actions at sea, in outer space and cyberspace.
Wang said the military's legal system has been 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 squandering 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 officials 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, vehicles and travel are also subject to close scrutiny.
According to the PLA auditing regulation, all malpractice uncovered by the PLA auditing office 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.
The PLA has ordered officers to give back extra properties if they have more than one military-owned apartment or their combined size exceeds the allowance for their rank. Secretaries and office attendants that were not allowed have been eliminated, and the use of military vehicles has been strictly regulated.
Wang said all these measures indicate that on the path to building a strong army, all officers, no matter their rank, must follow rules. The army should be built under the rule of law and power should be shut in a "cage of regulations," added Wang.
Experts urged the PLA to always remain clear-minded and strictly observe discipline to guarantee a strong military, as irregularities will destroy the PLA's combat capability.
Meanwhile, in an article carried by Wednesday's PLA Daily, the CMC bureau of legislative affairs warned of hidden infiltration into the military by hostile forces, and reiterated the CPC's absolute leadership over the PLA.