The PLA and International Humanitarian Law: Achievements and Challenges

Asia Paper October 1, 2013, pp. 28

As a branch of international law, the duty to implement international humanitarian law (IHL) lies mainly with the state. The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has undertaken a number of legal and practical actions to fulfill its international obligations in this area. The practical measures include organizing and delegating the implementation of tasks to military authorities and academic institutions. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a major role in the PRC’s aim of ensuring full compliance with this body of law, as well as ensuring that its provisions are fully respected, even in peacetime. Both China and the PLA retain a long humanitarian tradition in this respect. Indeed, principles regarding the humane conduct of armed conflict and lenient treatment of captives were followed by the PLA and preceded the introduction of formal IHL treaties by the international community by more than 20 years. Moreover, at the international level, China is a party to most of the major IHL treaties and is one of the states to have ratified the largest number of IHL instruments. The PLA has established professional agencies, promoted education and training of military personnel, promoted research, and participated in international activities concerning IHL. Remarkable results have been achieved due to these enhanced efforts in recent years. Therefore, major IHL treaties and provisions have become integral parts of the PLA’s education and training programs, and, as a result, IHL has been widely disseminated and implemented within the army. However, for the future development of IHL within the PLA, even greater implementation of IHL provisions into PLA regulations needs to be carried out, as well as a strengthening of practical education, training, and research.