China’s Communist Party People’s Congress recently passed a sweeping national-security law that directs the People’s Liberation Army to expand the military’s offshore presence to protect China’s “overseas interests” and to support counterterrorism at home, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency.
The law appears to be a foundation for external military expansionism, while intensifying the two year crackdown at home against dissent that has featured repression of religion and free speech, heightened monitoring of social media, and sharpened warnings against the spread of Western ideas and influences.
The PLA is now officially tasked with not only protecting national territorial sovereignty, but also defending China’s overseas interests through military action if necessary. The legislation’s new “duties” are “in addition to the People’s Liberation Army’s established responsibilities for peacekeeping, international rescue operations and escort missions,” according to the South China Morning Post.
“The amendment indicates the PLA Navy has been given the challenging and tough long-term task to defend China’s overseas interests. More resources and political support will be required to turn the navy into a capable blue-water force [to carry out these tasks],” Shanghai-based naval expert Ni Lexiong told the SCMP.
The law specifically states that the PLA should protect China’s access and control of strategic resources and energy reserves, as well as transport channels on sea and land to safeguard the country’s social and economic development.
These laws “reflect the party’s determination to create a garrison state,” Jerome Cohen, a veteran China legal scholar at New York University, told MarketWatch. The new national security law, he said, is “an ideological platform that guides domestic and foreign policies.”