By Wang Ruoyu
Approved by Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the CMC has released the interim regulations on the management of active-duty officers and sets of supporting regulations, all coming into effect on January 1, 2021.
This means that after more than a year of incremental reform, the reform of the military officer system has taken a crucial and significant step towards a professional system for military officers with Chinese characteristics.
At the same time, the word "interim" in a series of regulations also means that the reform of the officer system is still in progress and transitional. It needs to be adjusted and improved according to the actual implementation situation before it can finally be mature.
For Chinese service members, "professionalization of military officers" is a relatively unfamiliar term.
The military rank system has been implemented in Chinese military since 1988, but the post rank system has still played a decisive role in an military officer’s personal development and his/her position in the military commanding system. Compared with it, the military rank is relatively not that important. Sometimes, an officer can be promoted on military rank without changes in his post rank, when he/she has stayed enough long with the current military rank.
The original intention of the military rank is to distinguish the ranks of service members and to clarify the relationship between superiors and subordinates. For example, a combat group temporarily formed on the battlefield is generally commanded by a high-ranking officer. However, before the reform of the officer system in China’s military, there were situations where one military rank corresponded to multiple post ranks. Such a mismatch of military ranks and positions is contrary to the original intention.
The first news about the reform of the professionalization of military officers came at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in 2013. The meeting deliberated and approved the Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, which proposed "to gradually form a scientific and standardized military cadre system based on the establishment of a professional system for officers".
The CMC reform work meeting held in November 2015 proposed to "promote the reform of the military rank system and the professionalization of officers".
In November 2018, the CMC meeting on the reform of policies and institutions further clarified that "we must restructure the policies and institutions on military strength building, strengthen the system-designing for the military human resources, and establish a professionalization system for officers".
From the first time the CMC's document clarified the direction of the professionalization of officers to the promulgation of the interim regulations on January 1 this year, it took seven years before the reform was finally implemented.
This also fully demonstrates that the reform of the professionalization system for officers is very important and highly sensitive, as it involves the selection and training, promotion and appointment, adjustments and exchanges, retirement and placement, and other aspects of officers. The linkage with the amendments of the Military Service Law of the People's Republic of China and other regulations indicates a slight move that affects the overall situation. In this way, the research and demonstration of reforms also appear more cautious and comprehensive.
The top-level design is to revise the Law of the People's Republic of China on Officers in Active Service
When the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) announced its annual legislative plan, it included the Law on Officers in Active Service as a preparatory item several times since years ago. However, considering that the reform of the military officer system is fundamental and systematic, with unprecedented intensity, depth, and breadth, the NPC Standing Committee voted on December 25, 2016, to adopt a decision on temporarily adjusting the application of relevant laws and regulations during the reform of the officer system to ensure prudence and stability.
During the reform, the relevant regulations on the post rank, military rank, appointment and dismissal of officers in the Law on Officers in Active Service and the Regulations on the Ranks of Officers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army will be temporarily adjusted and applied.
Later, the General Office of the CMC issued the notice on adjusting the policy concerning the promotion of military ranks of officers at and above the corps level in December 2019. The notice starts from the focus of commanding officers above the corps level and provides a model and support in practice for the revision and implementation of the Law on Officers in Active Service. Since then, the ranks of division and regiment, battalion and company officers have been promoted, and a corresponding relationship between the military rank and post rankof most officers has been established.
After more than a year of gradual reform, most of the stock issues have been resolved. The corresponding relationship between military rank and post rank has basically been straightened out, and the reform of the officer system has finally embraced the highlight.
It is rare for the CMC to issue sets of regulations and documents at the same time to reform and reshape the officer system comprehensively. The move can better exert the coupling benefits between various policies and form a rigorous, meticulous and complete policy group.
The first step is always the hardest. It could be firmly believed that Chinese military officers will be able to explore their new positions in the new system and find their way out as long as the transition period of the reform is passed successfully.