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China Encourages College Graduates to Join the Army

In July, China’s Ministry of Education issued a notice requiring students at local schools and colleges to watch a promotional video and a mini film that the Recruitment Office of the Defense Ministry produced.

The government has also recently adjusted its conscription system. Beginning in 2020, China will increase the frequency from “one conscription and one retirement every year” to “two conscriptions and two retirements every year.” The recruitment process, conducted once in each half of the year, will target college graduates.

For quite a long time, China’s troops came mainly from rural areas. After China initiated the recruitment from universities and colleges years ago, more and more students have enlisted in the army. Li Baoyang, a researcher from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, believes that China’s urbanization process has made college graduates the main source of recruits. “Especially since the start of the 21st century, China’s rural areas have basically been ‘empty nests,’ and there are very few young and middle-aged populations. Now, the rural areas are generally dilapidated, and there are few soldiers to recruit.”

People’ Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, the newspaper for the Chinese military, once reported that Shanghai ranked top in the country in recent years in terms of the proportion of college graduates who enlisted. Nationwide, the percentage of enlisted college students has soared from 17 percent in 2006 to 90 percent in 2018.

A number of incentive policies have also been introduced throughout the country to attract college students to the army. Soldiers receive preferential considerations when applying for government jobs. They also receive a subsidy after two years of service. State-owned enterprises also reserve 15 percent of their positions for retired college student soldiers. In recent years, the authorities have relaxed the recruitment standards. In 2014, the minimum height for male recruits nationwide was reduced from 162 cm to 160 cm, and the weight limit rose from 25 percent to 30 percent exceeding the standard.

In 2020, the population of college graduates will reach 8.74 million, another record high. At the same time, the epidemic and the prolonged economic slowdown have diminished the labor demand. With the serious imbalance in supply and demand, college graduates are facing unprecedented pressure looking for jobs. Joining the army may be an attractive choice. The number of Chinese college students who signed up to join the army last year reached 1.24 million, close to 15 percent of the total graduates.

Source: Radio Free Asia, August 10, 2020