China’s New Defense Law Gives Military More Control of War Powers

New amendment is likely a reaction to increased US military activity near China's coast

A new amendment to China’s defense law gives more control of the military to Beijing’s Central Military Commission (CMC), a defense body that oversees the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and is chaired by President Xi Jinping.

The amendment came into effect on January 1st and weakened the role of China’s State Council, the country’s cabinet, in formulating military policy. According to The South China Morning Post, the new legislation adds “disruption” and “development interests” as grounds for the deployment of troops.

Since CMC’s leadership is made up of China’s military brass, the new amendment gives more control of war powers to the PLA. Zeng Zhiping, a military law expert and former PLA colonel, explained to the Post how the new amendment works.

“The CMC is now formally in charge of making national defense policy and principles, while the State Council becomes a mere implementing agency to provide support to the military,” Zeng said.

He compared the new policy to other countries that have more civilian control over their militaries. “Even in the US, the civilian-led defense ministry plays a more important role than their military top brass, the joint chiefs of staff,” he said.

The new law could allow China’s PLA to deploy more quickly to confront the US, whose warships are frequently sailing in waters near China’s coast. In 2020, the US stepped up its military presence in the region by increasing US Navy transits of the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. US military surveillance flights have also increased in the region.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.