China has passed a new law aimed at providing better support for the country’s 57 million military veterans. The Standing Committee of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), on Wednesday adopted the new law to strengthen protection over the legitimate rights of veterans.
The law stipulates that it is the common responsibility of the whole society to respect and care for demobilised military personnel, and the veterans can enjoy the benefits of preferential financing policies such as discount interest on loans if they start small or micro-businesses, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The law required establishing a national mechanism to ensure special preferential treatment to veterans who participated in wars.
The law, which will take effect from January 1, 2021, has provisions on the different settlement measures for demobilised military officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers. “(We should) make the military a profession to be respected by the whole of society, and build the foundation for strengthening the army," Li Zhanshu, chairman of the NPC, was quoted as saying.
Under the new law, businesses that employ former soldiers will be given tax breaks, while local governments will be responsible for providing job training to veterans so they can find alternative employment and support themselves, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Thursday. China has the world’s largest standing military of two million personnel.
According to official figures, China has about 57 million veterans and the number is set to grow as military leaders seek to transform the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a modern fighting force through streamlining and the adoption of new technologies. But the PLA is also struggling to attract young, well-educated recruits, who have more career options than their predecessors.
Qin Qianhong, a political scientist and law professor at Wuhan University, said Beijing needed to do more to ensure that the military path remained an attractive career option for young people. “Unlike in the past, when military service was widely considered an honourable and preferred career, young Chinese now have many options, he said.
“This law is also an attempt to address the uncertainty for some people who may be worried about life after [military] service as it spells out how the soldiers will be taken care of by society after they leave, he said. A retired officer, who asked not to be named, said veterans had been lobbying for the new legislation for many years and hoped it would be implemented despite China’s slowing economic growth and rising competition for jobs.
“Many of our comrades are happy that the law is now passed but we are concerned about its implementation, the veteran of the Sino-Vietnamese war told the Post. We are worried if there will be enough jobs for us because we are getting old and many of us have health and family problems, he said.
In recent years, disgruntled veterans have joined waves of demonstrations calling for better benefits. In January last year, 19 people were arrested for organising protests. The government opened the Ministry of Veterans Affairs in 2018.