gainst the massive downsizing and overhaul of government agencies last year, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs (MVA) came into being on April 16, 2018 to better protect the rights of retired and demobilized soldiers and boost their sense of honor.
Since its inception, the MVA has transferred over 80,000 petition letters from veterans to local agencies, and nearly half of the issues raised have been resolved. To provide tailored assistance, veteran service centers in five tiers from village to provincial levels are expected to open nationwide in late May 2019, responsible for helping veterans find civilian jobs or start their own businesses, as well as offering preferential treatment for veterans.
In October 2017, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China announced that an institution to safeguard the legitimate rights of veterans would be established to make military service an occupation respected by society. On March 12, 2018,Chinese President Xi Jinping said during the two sessions, China’s annual legislative meetings, that the country must guarantee that military personnel and veterans are respected, promising never to “let heroes weep after they bleed.”
A day later, as part of the plan on institutional restructuring made by the State Council, the proposal to establish the new administration was submitted to the 13th National People’s Congress for review. The MVA will take responsibility for tasks that were previously handled by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and two organs under the Central Military Commission.
The MVA has to date received visits from hundreds of veterans and discharged soldiers every day. Starting September, the new administration opened an online channel for veterans to lodge petitions and check the implementation of policies that affect them. During a press conference by the State Council on January 23, Ma Feixiong, director of the Rights Protection Department of the MVA, argued that it is quite normal for military retirees to file a petition of complaint. “It is itself trust in the Party and the government when former military personnel seek help from related government agencies.”
Fang Yongxiang, deputy minister of the MVA, argued that now, problems involving the resettlement of veterans center on how to fully implement resettlement policies, identify veterans, set standards for subsidies and help those living under difficult circumstances. According to statistics provided by the MVA to NewsChina, the agency has to date handled at least 140,000 petitions, including 50,000 through online channels.
A senior official at the MVA told NewsChina on condition of anonymity that one year after the establishment of the MVA, the new agency still urgently needs to establish sensible and rational systems of management, work and regulation. MVA Minister Sun Shaocheng said during the two sessions on March 3 that the MVA has released 12 regulations related to the rights of veterans, and it will release 11 more regulations and 17 policies this year. Sun added that it is a priority for his administration to work on the Veterans Welfare Law.
In July 2018, the draft Veterans Welfare Law was open for discussion to a certain extent within a small legal circle after lengthy deliberation and writing. MVA deputy minister Qian Feng argued during a seminar that the law will serve as the general guidelines to solve problems related to veterans, which is the biggest expectation of retired soldiers. Starting October 16, opinions have been solicited on the Veterans Welfare Law from other government agencies.
The senior official at the MVA told our reporter that a number of regulations related to the law, including resettlement of retired soldiers and compensation awards for the families of martyrs are expected to be released in late 2019.
During a seminar on the draft of the Veterans Welfare Law on July 19, Wei Changjin, political commissar of the Zaozhuang Regional Military Command in Shandong Province, said the law should enable military retirees who have served in remote areas or under harsh conditions to access more preferential policies. “It is important to set a good example for young people, inspire the morale of soldiers and encourage them to make sacrifices,” he said.
On January 23, China’s State Council held a news conference where Wang Zhiming, spokesperson for the MVA, said that the ministry has resettled over 400,000 retired soldiers and demobilized 82,000 army officers in 2018. Meanwhile, 123 major State-owned enterprises have provided more than 15,000 job vacancies for retired soldiers, accounting for 5.18 percent of the yearly recruitment plans of these enterprises.
According to Bao Feng, head of the Demobilization Department of the MVA, the ministry has introduced preferential policies to boost employment among military retirees. To be specific, officers holding leading posts at the division level and above and those who have a senior professional title could be demobilized if they are under 53. The previous age requirement was 50. Officers holding a post below the division level can be demobilized if they have served in the armed forces for 18 years, down from 20 years.
According to statistics from the MVA, the agency has organized more than 300 job fairs nationwide and held training programs targeting retired soldiers in 2018. It provided more than 600,000 jobs for retired soldiers and more than 218,000 retired soldiers found work by themselves. China is home to over 57 million former military personnel and the number is increasing by hundreds of thousands each year.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” MVA Minister Sun Shaocheng said during a conference to boost employment among military retirees in Beijing in December. The ministry also plans to provide academic education and vocational training programs for veterans in cooperation with universities nationwide. On March 19, the MVA signed cooperative agreements with 10 banks in China to better serve retired soldiers. “It is our responsibility and obligation to provide unique financial services to retired soldiers who have dedicated their lives to our country,” said Li Qingping, chairperson of China CITIC Bank Corporation. These banks promised to issue special bank cards to retired soldiers and offer them preferential services.
The MVA has also been working to enhance the honor of military careers. To date, China has over 4,000 protected martyrs cemeteries, housing the remains of more than 1.4 million martyrs. The MVA will construct cemeteries for military personnel and their relatives after borrowing from overseas practices and learning from military experts. The senior official from the MVA told our reporter that it is a mission to plan, build, manage and maintain military cemeteries in order to enhance the pride and honor of soldiers and their families.
Gong Fangbin, a professor at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, told the Beijing Youth Daily that cemeteries for military personnel will create a unique spiritual identity for China which will be of great symbolic significance to bolster national pride. He added that both military cemeteries and martyrs’ cemeteries exist to honor those who sacrificed themselves on behalf of their country and society.
Wang Zhiming said during a press conference that in addition to promoting the establishment of military cemeteries, the agency has to date issued 20 million families nationwide with door plaques that say “Home of Pride.” The gold plaques with red characters on them are issued to military families where a veteran has served a certain amount of time. A government employee in Qingdao, Shandong Province who has served in the armed forces, told NewsChina on condition of anonymity that the MVA has offered retired soldiers a sense of belonging even though it has been in existence for just a year.
“My military career was a unique asset for me to land a job at a government agency,” he said. “Nowadays, we receive better treatment and increased attention and respect from the government and society alike.”