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Chinese military dismisses unhealthy applicant claims

By Zhang Zhihao | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-08-22 17:02

The Chinese military has reassured the quality of new recruits and dismissed speculations that unhealthy applicants have entered the armed forces.

The military eliminated unfit applicants who failed rigorous physical examinations, ensuring the high quality of young recruits, according to the Defense Ministry's recruitment office, which issued an online statement on Tuesday.

"Recruitment is the foundation project for national defense and military build-up, and high quality recruits are crucial to a military's combat capability," the online statement stated.

The recent public worry about the quality of young recruits has been caused by people mistakenly correlating an increased number of turned down applicants to subpar recruits, it added.

In 2014, the United States military turned down 80 percent of all applicants, which led to the highest quality of military recruits in 40 years as the then Obama administration tried to downsize the US Army, according to the Pentagon.

"China's recruitment process has strict rules and procedures, and related departments pay high attention to this work," the Defense Ministry's recruitment office said.

"The quality of our recruits are guaranteed, and the headwaters of our military will flow long and strong."

On Saturday, the People's Liberation Army Daily said, on its WeChat account, about 56 percent of applicants who applied to join the army in an unnamed city this year failed the physical exam.

The post spurred a heated online discussion and raised public doubts about the quality of young recruits this year, as well as how unhealthy diets and overuse of smartphones have undermined their health and eyesight.

"A warzone does not need weak 'pretty boys', only strong young men who can shoulder the responsibility of protecting the nation," Xu Xuewei, in an online comment, said.

The PLA is undergoing a series of reforms to become a world-class fighting force; however, the military is having hard time finding young recruits as young couples are having less children.

As a result, in 2014, the Chinese military relaxed its physical standards for new recruits in an effort to attract more young people with higher education backgrounds.

The height requirement for a male candidate has also been adjusted, decreasing from 162 centimeters to 160 cm, and for female candidates, from 160 cm to 158 cm.

Moreover, it also lowered eyesight requirements because nearly 70 percent of high school and university students in China are nearsighted, according to the national eyesight report by the Peking University.

"While the physical criteria may have lower slightly, the education requirement has increased significantly," Major General Zhu Chenghu, a professor at the PLA National Defense University, said.

"The general quality of young recruits has actually improved over the years, with many college students holding degrees in engineering and international relations.

"A strong body is also still very important for a soldier, but education is now more valuable than ever in building a strong and modernized military."

zhangzhihao@chinadaily.com.cn

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