China's military veterans ministry opens after pension protests

China's new Ministry of Veterans Affairs began operations on Monday as Beijing sought to better manage the welfare of the country's 57 million former military personnel after a series of protests over their retirement benefits.

The government is reducing the size of the country's armed forces by 300,000 to help build more agile and efficient combat forces, but this has generated greater concern about the future of former military personnel.

Protests by Chinese PLA veterans for pensions are proof of President Xi Jinping's modernization plans

Hundreds of veterans organized two days of demonstration in the lower house to the anti-corruption center of the Central Committee for Disciplinary Inspection demanding unpaid retirement benefits.

The protest followed an even larger demonstration in October 2016 that saw thousands of veterans perform a Silent sit-in outside the commission's headquarters. It was said to be the biggest protest of veterans since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

The soldiers who protested included veterans who fought against Vietnam in 1979, China's last great foreign military engagement.

The new agency was formed as part of a broad government restructuring announced during the country's annual parliamentary meetings last month.

The new agency aims to establish a centralized system to formulate policies and regulations to care for veterans, including the management of their pensions and retirement benefits.

He is also tasked with helping former soldiers find new jobs and provide training.

Other duties include the care of military monuments and tombs.

Duties were previously handled by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Central Military Commission.

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The new body will be headed by Sun Shaocheng, who worked from 2001 to 2009 as director of the resettlement department under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Government statistics indicate the number of military personnel withdrawn by 57 million.

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