Why does China need a new body to address veteran issues?

Yao Jianing

Soldiers from a branch of the border defense forces in Yantai, Shandong Province, see off a demobilized soldier. (TANG KE/FOR CHINA DAILY)

Addressing veteran issues in the build-up of a modernized military is key to building a strong army for achieving China's national rejuvenation.

As part of a government reshuffle, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs is to be formed according to a plan released in Beijing on Tuesday. The move shows that the promise previously made by Chinese President Xi Jinping has been fulfilled.

"We will establish an administration for veterans; we will protect the legitimate rights and interests of military personnel and their families; and we will make military service an occupation that enjoys public respect," said President Xi Jinping while delivering the report at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October 2017. [Special coverage]

Still contributors to society

The new ministry is to draft policies and regulations related to demobilized military personnel and put them into practice, to publicize to society achievements made by veterans for the Party, the country and its people, to deal with issues regarding training and reemployment, to support veterans' family members, to handle issues on pension and retirement benefits, to take care of military cemeteries, and to organize commemoration activities.

Previously, the tasks were handled by different ministries, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Central Military Commission.

"How retired military personnel are treated will have impact on mentality and morale of the servicemen. Veterans are also of great value to the country. If the issue is properly handled, veterans could make great contributions to society," Li Yanping, deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), told the Paper on Tuesday.

Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs show that the number of retired military personnel has reached 57 million in China.

Internationally, the issue of veteran care is given serious consideration in major powers, and organizations have been set up to address related issues.

Veterans' services seen as priority in the U.S.

Departments dealing with veteran affairs exist in countries such as the U.S., the UK, France and Germany. In the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs was formed in 1989 and is the second-largest of the Cabinet departments after the Department of Defense.

In President Abraham Lincoln's words, the department is to "care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." Data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that the number of veterans in the U.S. was about 20.4 million in 2016. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 2017 concludes that Americans still view veterans' services as a priority.

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