China: Army relaxes physical standards in modernization bid

Posted Nov 3, 2011 by JohnThomas Didymus
China's top legislature, The National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee has relaxed stringent physical examination standards in the country's Military Service Law with the aim of bringing better educated youth in to the People's Liberation Army.
pla recruits training
pla recruits training
Wang Xianjiao
There was a time when China, with huge population and an excess of work hardened rural labor, could afford to be fussy about the quality of recruits it took, insisting on high standards of physical fitness, height and body weight. In the past, rejection rates for young Chinese taking physical exams ran up to 70 percent. Now with increasing standards of living and eduction, and with a slackening of waistlines of its youthful population in times of increasing affluence, the Chinese army is compromising its standards.
With increasing modernization of its army, the Chinese military is looking to bring in relatively highly skilled personnel from among its better educated youths enjoying increased standards of living and affluence by providing incentives of increased pay and benefits.
AFP reports that Colonel Jiang Jiping, in charge of recruitment in the People's Liberation Army, says the number of graduates in China grew from 3.38 million in 2005 to 6.3 million in 2010.
China Daily reports the new standards governing health examinations for this year's winter army conscripts, posted on the Chinese defense ministry's website, says would-be recruits will no longer be rejected for having face or neck tattoos, provided the tattoo does not exceed 2 centimeters. Would-be recruits with body weight up to 25 percent greater or 15 per cent below the military's "standard weight" will also be accepted, meaning we would be seeing bigger paunches and chubbier Chinese soldiers in the next few years. Previous strict prohibition of ear piercing has been relaxed. Candidates will be accepted as long as the piercings are not too obvious. The minimum height for a Chinese soldier is 5 feet, 3 inches.
The Globe and Mail reports that in contrast to new Chinese recruitment policy, new U.S. military regulations released in 2006, banned tattoo above the collar in the neck, head and face. Tattoos of racist, sexist, or extremist ideological nature were banned in all parts of the body. The regulations in the U.S. Army does not prohibit piercing, but prohibits earrings and other body ornaments, with some exceptions for female soldiers. The minimum height allowed for an American soldier is lower than for Chinese soldiers, 5 ft ,and weight range between 97 and 259 pounds, depending on age and height.
To attract more university students, the defense ministry has said it will provide an annual education allowance of up to 6,000 yuan ($944)) to university students who suspend their university education to enroll in the army. The new policy also guarantees the recruit return to school after his service is over.
AFP reports China's People's Liberation Army is the largest army in the world with 2.3 million soldiers. China Daily reports the country's Military Service Law, passed in 1984, included compulsory service requirements for Chinese citizens over the age of 18, but the requirement is only very rarely enforced because of the large number of volunteers.
Governments in the West are closely watching the growth of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), even as PLA has been closely watching the West in its military missions, including the Kosovo war, 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the ongoing war in Iraq.
The 1991 Gulf War was turning point in the development policy of Chinese Military authorities, who came to realize, for the first time, how obsolescent and unwieldy in size the PLA was. The PLA's "Revolution in Military Affairs" that Chairman Jiang Zemin announced in 1993, aimed at overhauling the PLA for modernization. Its stated goal was a shift from emphasis in numbers to quality of forces, and to build a force capable of winning "local wars under high-tech conditions."