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The Diversified Employment of China's Armed Forces

IV. Supporting National Economic and Social Development

The Constitution and relevant laws entrust China's armed forces with the important tasks of safeguarding the peaceful labor of the Chinese people, taking part in national development and serving the people wholeheartedly. Subordinate to and serving the overall situation of national reform and development, the armed forces of China actively participate in national development, emergency rescue and disaster relief, maintain social harmony and stability according to law, and endeavor to protect national development interests.

Participating in National Development

Under the precondition of accomplishing such tasks as education, training, combat readiness duties, and scientific research and experiments, the PLA and PAPF center their efforts on national and local plans and arrangements for economic and social development; persist in combining PLA and PAPF capabilities with local governments' needs and local people's expectations; make full use of their resources and advantages in personnel, equipment, technology and infrastructure; actively support local key infrastructure projects, ecological environment conservation and new socialist rural area development; and take solid steps to support poverty-alleviation initiatives, give financial aid to education and provide medical service support. They thereby make significant contributions to promoting local economic development, social harmony and the improvement of people's livelihood.

Supporting key infrastructure projects. China's armed forces bring into full play the advantages of hydroelectric, transportation, engineering and cartographic units, and support national and local infrastructure construction related to national economy and people's livelihood in such areas as transportation, water conservancy, energy and communications. Since 2011, the PLA and PAPF have contributed more than 15 million work days and over 1.2 million motor vehicles and machines, and have been involved in more than 350 major province-level (and above) projects of building airports, highways, railways and water conservancy facilities. The PAPF hydroelectric units have partaken in the construction of 115 projects concerning water conservancy, hydropower, railways and gas pipelines in Nuozhadu (Yunnan), Jinping (Sichuan) and Pangduo (Tibet). In addition, PAPF transportation units have undertaken the construction of 172 projects, including highways in the Tianshan Mountains in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the double-deck viaduct bridge over the Luotang River in Gansu Province and the Galungla Tunnel along the Medog Highway in the Tibet Autonomous Region, with a total length of 3,250 km.

Promoting ecological progress and protecting the environment. The PLA, militia and reserve organic troops are organized to help afforest barren hills, control desertification and preserve wetlands. Specifically, they have supported the construction of key national reserves and ecological engineering projects such as controlling the sources of sandstorms affecting Beijing and Tianjin, afforesting the periphery of the Taklimakan Desert, protecting the ecological environment of the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtse and Yellow rivers, and harnessing the Yarlung Zangbo, Lhasa and Nyangqu rivers in Tibet. Over the past two years, the PLA and PAPF have planted over 14 million trees, and afforested above three million mu of barren hills and beaches by large-scale planting and aerial seeding. Besides, technical units specializing in cartography, meteorology, and water supply provide such services as cartographic surveying, weather and hydrological forecasting, and water source exploration for local people.

Contributing to poverty-alleviation initiatives and helping build new rural areas. The PLA and PAPF have paired up with 63 poverty-stricken counties and 547 poverty-stricken towns and townships; set up 26,000 places of contact for poverty reduction; supported over 20,000 small projects such as constructing irrigation and water-conservancy facilities, building rural roads, and improving small river valley areas; aided the development of more than 1,000 industries; and helped over 400,000 needy people shake off poverty. The Beijing Military Area Command's water-supply engineering regiment has helped local governments to search for water and dig wells in Yunnan, Shandong, Hebei and Guizhou provinces, as well as the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and dug 358 wells, solving the domestic water shortage for 960,000 people and the problem of irrigation for 85,000 mu of farmland. Implementing the project of "digging wells to enrich farmers," the Lanzhou Military Area Command's water-supply engineering regiment has explored water sources and dug 192 wells in the arid zone in the middle and southern parts of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and alleviated drinking water shortages for 390,000 people and 570,000 head of livestock and the problem of irrigation for 37,000 mu of farmland.

Supporting scientific and technological, educational, cultural and health undertakings. From 2011 to 2012, military academies, research institutions and specialized technical units undertook more than 200 research subjects including national major projects and key technology R&D programs; participated in 220 projects tackling key scientific and technological problems; and transferred 180 technologies. A total of 108 PLA and PAPF hospitals have paired up with 130 county-level hospitals in poverty-stricken areas in the western parts of the country, while medical and health units below the corps level have paired up with 1,283 clinics and health centers in towns and townships. From 2009 to 2012, the armed forces financed and built 57 "August 1" schools particularly in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities in the western parts of the country, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, providing schooling for over 30,000 children.

Participating in Emergency Rescue and Disaster Relief

China is one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters. With more varieties, wide distribution and high frequency, natural disasters endanger China's economic and social development as well as the lives and property of many Chinese people. The armed forces of China have always acted as the shock force in emergency rescue and disaster relief, and always undertaken the most urgent, arduous and hazardous rescue tasks. According to the Regulations on the PLA's Participation in Disaster Rescue promulgated in 2005, the PLA and PAPF are mainly tasked with rescuing and evacuating the trapped; ensuring the security of important facilities and areas; salvaging and transporting important materials; participating in specialized operations such as rush repairs of roads, bridges and tunnels, maritime search and rescue, NBC rescue, epidemic control, and medical aid; eliminating or controlling other major dangers and disasters; and assisting local governments in post-disaster reconstruction.

The PLA, PAPF and people's governments at various levels have established military-civilian joint response mechanisms for natural disasters, set up a mobile command platform for emergency response at the strategic level, pre-stored and pre-positioned in key areas materials and equipment urgently needed for emergency rescue and disaster relief, worked out relevant scenarios for units at and above the regiment level, and organized joint military-civilian exercises and training, thereby enhancing their capabilities for emergency rescue and disaster relief in all respects. So far, China has formed nine state-level professional teams, with a total membership of 50,000. They are emergency-response teams for flood relief, earthquake rescue, NBC defense, emergency airlift, rush repair of transportation and power facilities, maritime search and rescue, mobile communications support, medical aid and epidemic prevention, and meteorological support. In collaboration with relevant provinces (autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government) and based on active and reserve forces, all MACs have joined to set up professional emergency-rescue units at the provincial level, totaling 45,000 members.

In all major emergency-rescue and disaster-relief operations, China's armed forces have always played a vital role. In 2008, some 1.26 million officers and men as well as militia members were sent to counter the disaster of freezing weather, sleet and snowstorms in southern China, and 221,000 to participate in rescue after the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province. In 2010, some 21,000 and 12,000 armed forces members were dispatched respectively to take part in rescue after the Yushu (Qinghai Province) earthquake and the Zhouqu (Gansu Province) mud-rock slide. Since 2011, the PLA and PAPF have contributed a total of 370,000 servicepersons and 197,000 vehicles or other machines of various types, flown over 225 sorties (using fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters), organized 870,000 militiamen and reservists, participated in emergency-rescue and disaster-relief operations in cases of floods, earthquakes, droughts, ice jams, typhoons and fires, rescued or evacuated more than 2.45 million people, and rushed 160,000 tons of goods to disaster areas. Every year, the army aviation flies hundreds of sorties to prevent and fight forest and grassland fires on a regular basis.

Maintaining Social Stability

In accordance with relevant laws and regulations, the armed forces of China participate in social order maintenance, and guard and fight against terrorist activities. The PAPF is the state's backbone and shock force in handling public emergencies and maintaining social stability. The Law of the People's Republic of China on the People's Armed Police Force, promulgated in August 2009, specifies the scope, measures and support of PAPF security missions. With mobile PAPF troops as the mainstay, supplemented by forces pooled from routine duty units, and supported by various police forces and PAPF academies, the PAPF has established a force structure for stability maintenance and emergency response. In addition, a counter-terrorism force structure has been set up, which consists of a counter-terrorism contingent, special-duty squadrons, special-duty platoons and emergency-response squads at state, province, municipality and county levels, respectively. Solid steps have been taken to implement strict security measures for major events, including guard duties, security checks, security of important facilities and areas, checkpoints on major roads, and armed urban patrols. From 2011 to 2012, the PAPF effectively responded to and handled various emergencies, coordinated with public security organs to successfully handle some violent and terrorist attacks, and participated in handling 68 incidents of serious violence, and rescuing 62 hostages. Altogether contributing more than 1.6 million persons, the PAPF has provided security for such important events as the 26th Summer Universiade (Shenzhen, 2011), China-Eurasia Expo (Urumqi, 2011) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Beijing Summit (2012).

The PLA also assists public security and PAPF forces in providing security for major events. The PLAA is mainly tasked with counter-terrorism, NBC and explosive item checks, and medical aid. The PLAN is mainly responsible for guarding against potential maritime threats and terrorist attacks. The PLAAF is mainly charged with providing air security for major event venues and their adjacent areas. In recent years, contributing 145,000 servicepersons, 365 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, 148 ships and 554 sets of radar equipment, the PLA provided security for the Beijing Olympics, celebrations of the PRC's 60th founding anniversary, Shanghai World Expo and Guangzhou Asian Games.

The militia is an important force for maintaining social stability. It assists in the maintenance of social order in accordance with laws and regulations. Under the unified arrangements of local CPC committees and governments as well as the guidance of corresponding military organs, the militia participates in joint defense of public security, integrated social management, and security provision for major events. Each year, more than 90,000 militiamen carry out the task of guarding bridges, tunnels and railways.

Hong Kong and Macao garrison troops are dispatched by the central government to the two special administrative regions (SARs) to perform defense duties according to law. As stipulated by the garrison laws, the governments of Hong Kong and Macao SARs may, if necessary, request the central government for the assistance of the garrison troops in maintaining social order and providing disaster relief. Hong Kong and Macao garrison troops organize joint air-sea patrols, conduct annual exercises and drills, and participate in joint exercises held by the SAR governments for air-sea search and rescue operations. They succeeded in providing security for the Hong Kong venue of the Beijing Olympics (2008) and anniversary celebrations of the SARs' returning to the motherland.

Safeguarding Maritime Rights and Interests

China is a major maritime as well as land country. The seas and oceans provide immense space and abundant resources for China's sustainable development, and thus are of vital importance to the people's wellbeing and China's future. It is an essential national development strategy to exploit, utilize and protect the seas and oceans, and build China into a maritime power. It is an important duty for the PLA to resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests.

In combination with its routine combat readiness activities, the PLAN provides security support for China's maritime law enforcement, fisheries, and oil and gas exploitation. It has established mechanisms to coordinate and cooperate with law-enforcement organs of marine surveillance and fishery administration, as well as a joint military-police-civilian defense mechanism. Further, the PLAN has worked in coordination with relevant local departments to conduct maritime survey and scientific investigation; build systems of maritime meteorological observation, satellite navigation, radio navigation and navigation aids; release timely weather and sea traffic information; and ensure the safe flow of traffic in sea areas of responsibility.

Together with the marine surveillance and fishery administration departments, the PLAN has conducted joint maritime exercises and drills for protecting rights and enforcing laws, and enhanced its capabilities to coordinate command and respond to emergencies in joint military-civilian operations to safeguard maritime rights. The "Donghai Collaboration-2012" joint exercise was held in the East China Sea in October 2012, involving 11 ships and eight planes.

As an important armed maritime law-enforcement body, the border public security force exercises jurisdiction over both violations of laws, rules and regulations relating to public security administration and suspected crimes committed in China's internal waters, territorial seas, contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelf. In recent years, the border public security force has endeavored to guarantee the security of sea areas, strengthened patrols, surveillance and management along the sea boundary in the Beibu Gulf and around the Xisha sea areas, and effectively maintained maritime public order and stability.

Protecting Overseas Interests

With the gradual integration of China's economy into the world economic system, overseas interests have become an integral component of China's national interests. Security issues are increasingly prominent, involving overseas energy and resources, strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs), and Chinese nationals and legal persons overseas. Vessel protection at sea, evacuation of Chinese nationals overseas, and emergency rescue have become important ways and means for the PLA to safeguard national interests and fulfill China's international obligations.

In line with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and with the consent of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the Chinese government dispatched a combined naval task force to conduct escort operations in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia on December 26, 2008. The combined Chinese task forces are mainly charged with safeguarding the security of Chinese ships and personnel traversing those waters and the security of ships delivering humanitarian supplies for the World Food Programme (WFP) and other international organizations, and sheltering passing foreign vessels as far as possible. As of December 2012, the Chinese Navy has dispatched, in 13 task groups, 34 warships, 28 helicopters, and 910 Special Operations Force (SOF) soldiers, escorting 4,984 ships in 532 batches. Among them, 1,510 were Chinese mainland ships, 940 Hong Kong ships, 74 Taiwan ships and one Macao ship. The task forces also rescued two Chinese ships from pirates who had boarded them and 22 which were being chased by pirates.

In February 2011, the turbulent situation in Libya posed grave security threats to Chinese institutions, enterprises and nationals in that country. The Chinese government organized the largest overseas evacuation since the founding of the PRC, and 35,860 Chinese nationals were taken home. The PLA contributed ships and aircraft to the effort. The Chinese Navy' s frigate Xuzhou, on escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia at that time, sailed to the waters off Libya and provided support for ships evacuating Chinese nationals stranded there. The PLAAF sent four aircraft at short notice, flew 40 sorties, evacuated 1,655 people (including 240 Nepalese) from Libya to Sudan, and took 287 Chinese nationals from Sudan back home.

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