Retired Chinese military personnel would be a top priority for conscription in wartime, according to draft regulatory changes released by the Ministry of Veterans Affairs on the weekend. The proposed changes to the country’s conscription regulations spell out for the first time how authorities would enlist veterans and other conscripts while the country was on a war footing. Under the regulations, the State Council or the Central Military Commission would issue mobilisation orders and hand responsibility for drafting soldiers to government and military agencies at various levels. Military veterans would be a target group and could rejoin their original unit or be posted to a similar position elsewhere, according to the draft. Authorities would have to help the veterans join up with those units. “During wartime, the transport department and workers shall give priority to enlisted soldiers; other organisations and personnel should also help them,” the regulations said. The draft regulations were posted on the ministry’s official WeChat account on Sunday for public feedback. The last revisions were made in 2001 and the regulations were first introduced in 1985. Besides wartime enlistment, the draft also covers the creation of an interministerial system for conscription, and efforts to institutionalise the process as part of China’s digital government build-up. Song Zhongping, a former People’s Liberation Army instructor, said revisions were needed to reflect broader changes in the world and to better prepare China for emergencies. “What’s more, the new section about enlisting soldiers during wartime can make the process more comprehensive. It fits to the actual needs of China, because enlisting veterans in the military can quickly boost troops’ ability if China fights a war,” Song said. The release of the draft comes as China’s ties with major Western countries and its neighbours decline over various issues, from territorial claims to human rights. In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also heads the Central Military Commission, stressed the need for “full-time combat readiness” and said the People’s Liberation Army must use frontline frictions to improve troops’ abilities. And in March, Xi said the Chinese military must be “prepared to respond” to complex and difficult situations as the country grappled with security challenges.