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Joint Staff Department
General Staff Department

In January 2016 China reorganized its four military headquarters -- staff, politics, logistics and armaments -- into 15 new agencies under the Central Military Commission (CMC). The Joint Staff Department (JSD) is responsible for command and control, “combat command support”, campaign planning, formulating military strategy, organizing joint training, performing combat capability assessments, and working to ensure combat readiness, Joel Wuthnow and Phillip C. Saunders report.

Thus, the department will perform many of the functions of the former General Staff Department’s (GSD’s) Operations Department. The organization could play a significant role in the evolving two-level joint command and control (C2) structure by serving as the institutional link between the CMC members and the five theater commands. However, past studies have indicated that the Communications and War Readiness Office of the CMC General Office has also played a C2 role. Thus, uncertainties remain about how the CMC will pass instructions to theater commanders during a crisis. The JSD also contains a new Overseas Operations Office, which PLA interviewees suggest will play a role in “planning and coordination” for out-of-area operations, such as anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

The General Staff Department carried out staff and operational functions for the PLA and had major responsibility for implementing military modernization plans. Headed by the chief of general staff, the department is the key operational department for the day to day functions of the PLA. It serves as the headquarters for the ground forces under the seven subordinate military regions (MR) and contains directorates for the three other armed services: the PLA Air Force, PLA Navy and the Strategic Rocket Force (also called the 2nd Artillery). The GSD First Department manages combat operations, while other departments run foreign and domestic intelligence operations, military communications operations, military training, military equipment and mobilization.

The most important of the three elements within the PLA was the General Staff Department's Equipment Department (GSD/ED) which draws up operational parameters for PLA equipment acquisitions and coordinates demands from the three services.

The General Staff Department included functionally organized subdepartments for artillery, armored units, engineering, operations, training, intelligence, mobilization, surveying, communications, quartermaster services, and politics. Navy Headquarters controlled the North Sea Fleet, East Sea Fleet, and South Sea Fleet. Air Force Headquarters generally exercised control through the commanders of the seven military regions. Nuclear forces were directly subordinate to the General Staff Department. Conventional main, regional, and militia units were controlled administratively by the military region commanders, but the General Staff Department in Beijing could assume direct operational control of any main-force unit at will. Thus, broadly speaking, the General Staff Department exercised operational control of the main forces, and the military region commanders controlled the regional forces and, indirectly, the militia.

Since 1982 the military legislation system has been further fine-tuned as part of the state legislation system: The NPC and its Standing Committee have formulated laws on defense and army building; the CMC has formulated military laws and regulations, or jointly worked out military administrative laws and regulations with the State Council; all general departments, all services and arms and all military area commands of the PLA have drawn up military rules and regulations or jointly worked out military administrative rules and regulations with the relevant departments of the State Council. The Interim Regulations on Legislative Procedures of the PLA promulgated by the CMC contains clear-cut provisions on legislation programming and planning and the drafting, examination, promulgation and enforcement of laws and regulations, which embody the standardization and systemization of military legislation.

During the 1990s a number of achievements were made in military legislation. The NPC and its Standing Committee have formulated 12 defense and army-building laws and legality-related decisions, including the National Defense Law of the PRC, Military Service Law of the PRC, Military Facilities Protection Law of the PRC, Civil Air Defense Law of the PRC, Law on the Reserve Officers of the PRC, the Garrison Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC, Military Service Regulations Pertaining to PLA Officers in Active Service, and Regulations on the Military Ranks of PLA Officers. The State Council and the CMC have worked out 40-odd military administrative laws and regulations, such as the Regulations on National Defense Transportation, Regulations on Conscription Work, Regulations on Militia Work, and Military Service Regulations Pertaining to PLA Soldiers in Active Service. The CMC has formulated 70-odd military laws and regulations, including the Regulations of the PLA Headquarters, Regulations on Political Work in the PLA, Logistics Regulations of the PLA, Routine Service Regulations of the PLA, Discipline Regulations of the PLA, and Drill Regulations of the PLA. The various general departments, services and arms and military area commands have drawn up 1,000-some items of military rules and regulations. Now, China has laws to go by basically in the principal aspects of its defense and army building, as a military legal system with Chinese characteristics now is initially in place. While adhering to the principle of suiting military legislation to its national and military conditions, China also lays stress on bringing it into line with the international military-related treaties and agreements that China has acceded to, so as to make China's military laws consistent in content with international legal norms and practices.

In the sphere of national defense construction, China has set up and improved its defense leading system and operating mechanism at both the central and local levels in accordance with the law, together with basic national defense systems and institutions, such as those of military service, mobilization, research and production, assets management and military facilities protection, as well as those of giving special care to the bereaved families of servicemen. In the area of army building, the principles defining the nature, tasks and building of the armed forces have been determined in accordance with the law, and a series of important systems and institutions are in operation, such as those of military ranks and insignia, military training, headquarters work, political work, logistic support, garrison service, and military discipline-related rewards and penalties, which ensure that national defense activities and army building can be carried out in an orderly manner, within a legal framework and along a regulatory line.

During the 16th CPC National Congress, held 8-15 November 2002, for the first time the CPC replaced its entire general staff in a single reshuffle reducing its membership from eleven to nine positions. None of the men who earned their political clout on the battlefields of World War II and the civil war against Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists were seated on the new Central Committee.



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