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Tattooed? Overweight? The PLA Still Wants You

Tattooed? Overweight? The PLA Still Wants You

The People’s Liberation Army has recently relaxed the rules for enlistment in a drive to improve the Chinese military’s recruiting numbers. No longer banned: people with small tattoos, those still carrying around a little baby fat and those who should probably switch to whole milk from skim.
China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, approved an amendment to the country’s Military Service Law on Monday with the goal of recruiting more well-educated soldiers.

Among the adjustments, according to a representative of the Beijing Military Recruitment Office, are a relaxation of rules governing weight and tattoos. New recruits will now be allowed to be 25% heavier or 15% skinnier than what the military considers an ideal weight, and people with tattoos on the neck or face — grounds for automatic rejection in the past — will now be considered, so long as the ink in question doesn’t exceed two centimeters in diameter.
The amendment also offers enticements specifically targeted at college students who decide to join the military before graduation, including post-service yearly tuition contributions as high as 6,000 yuan ($944).
Recruits from top universities in Beijing, meanwhile, will enjoy the ability to choose their own major (a rarity among Chinese college students), a one-time scholarship payment of 30,000 yuan and, if needed, a leg-up in securing a highly coveted Beijing residence permit.
It might be hard to imagine pudgy, mildly tattooed college students filling the ranks of the PLA, which still trumpets a history of having twice sent bands of scrappy guerrilla fighters out to wage successful campaigns against better-equipped enemies (the Nationalist Party during China’s civil war and the U.S.-led United Nations forces during the Korean War). But as RAND Corp. political scientist Roger Cliff noted in testimony before the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission in January (pdf), the PLA’s main focus in recent years has been on preparing for warfare “under high-technology conditions,” including on the Internet.
That effort is what’s behind the changes in recruitment policy, according to the Beijing Recruitment Office representative. “The army’s development requires more young people with higher education levels,” he said, adding that “the ability to grasp new technology” was an important criterion.
So why relax the rules on weight and body art?
According to the Beijing Recruitment Office representative, one reason is the one-child policy, which has significantly reduced China’s population of service-eligible youth.
Maoist fighter of the PLA
A state-run Xinhua news agency interview with a Beijing Military Recruitment Office vice-director Zhou Yongshan in September suggests another reason: fear among top potential recruits of being unable to find a job after being discharged.
“We understand that one big reason some college students are not positive enough about joining the army is that some aspects of post-discharge arrangement policy are generally not strong in terms of implementation,” Mr. Zhou Yongshan said (in Chinese). To solve the problem, he said, required new policies that would allow college students “to see the spaciousness of the entrance gate and, at the same time, see how the exit road has been widened.”more from wsj


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