Paramilitary: Defeating The Enemies Within China


February 6, 2012: China is increasing the police force in Xinjiang Province, by recruiting 8,000 more police for service in rural areas. This will increase the police in the countryside towns and villages by about ten percent. Xinjiang is thinly populated, mainly by Turkic Moslem people (who are over half the population). Out in the rural areas, the population is mostly Turkic (usually Uighur), Moslem and suspected of supporting Islamic terrorists and Uighur nationalists. China has already moved more soldiers into northwest China, which is mainly Xinjiang Province. The main tool for preventing violence in China is the local and paramilitary police. Unfortunately, one of the main sources of unrest is the local police.

In China, the line between the armed forces and the police is sometimes blurred. A perfect example of this is the 660,000 personnel of the People's Armed Police (PAP). Technically, the Armed Police is an armed force that undertakes social security duties as well as the enforcement of law and order within the country. It's not that simple. While there are about 1.4 million local police, for emergencies (a frequent event in Xinjiang) you call the PAP. This paramilitary force will quickly smother the unrest but it won't solve the underlying problems.

The history of the PAP is a confusing one. The PAPs ancestor was the Peoples Public Security Force, established in 1949 after the creation of the People's Republic of China. However, it was disbanded during the Cultural Revolution (1960s) and its duties transferred to the PLA (People's Liberation Army or "the army"). After the Cultural Revolution, feeling that the PLAs primary duties should be the national defense of the country, frontier police units were reestablished under the Ministry of Public Security, the same ministry that oversees the civilian Chinese police.

The People's Armed Police were created in 1982. In fact, a lot of demobilized PLA troops have been incorporated into the PAP since its creation. The PAP is rigidly organized, like most of Communist China's military/police arms, with a national headquarters in Beijing and local headquarters in every province of the country. Another confusing aspect of the PAP is that it is under the authority of two different bodies: The Central Military Commission and the Ministry of Public Security, which also manages the regular police forces. Within the PAP, a number of different types of units exist each with their own distinct missions, some of them military oriented and some law enforcement-oriented. These units are internal defense units, frontier defense units, fire brigade units, mobilized divisions, commandos, and forest police units.

The internal defense units are basically light infantry units designed to suppress internal threats with force. This would mean anything from putting down demonstrations to fighting a counterguerrilla war. They also guard government buildings and other key facilities throughout the country. The frontier defense troops are basically, again, light infantry military forces. However, instead of protecting against internal threats, these forces are basically a first line of border defense against attack by a foreign enemy and against other border violations. They also serve an important law enforcement role as they are the equivalent of the American Border Patrol and are involved in seizing cross-border narcotics shipments and other contraband.

Garrison units are basically troops that are stationed in Beijing to protect the central government departments. Mobile divisions are mechanized infantry divisions that have been formed in response to the growing threats of rebellion in the Xinjiang province and other areas. Ethnic minority separatism has long been a problem in China and the Chinese government is determined to keep a lid on it. The Special Police Units are sort of a cross between police SWAT teams and DELTA Force commandos. They are in charge of both counter-terrorism and riot control. Thus, the PAP is, in reality, both a national police force and an extra military ground force to be used for the country's defense.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close