China’s military battles new enemies at home: soft drinks and smartphones

The People’s Liberation Army is struggling to find new recruits among young people raised on video games and unhealthy diets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 August, 2017, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 August, 2017, 11:05pm

The world’s second-largest standing army is battling unconventional domestic enemies as it tries to build itself into a modern force – soft drinks, video games and smartphones.

On its WeChat account on Saturday, the PLA Daily, the military’s official mouthpiece, said more than half of the applicants who applied to join the army in one unnamed city this year failed the physical.

In all, 17 per cent had excessive levels of the enzyme transaminase in their blood system and 28 per cent of the urine samples were over the limit for uric and acetoacetic acids.

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All three indicators point to liver and kidney problems most likely caused by overconsumption of carbonated drinks, alcohol, hotpot and snack food such as crackers, the report said.

Intense physical activity could worsen damage to those organs, it added.

The would-be recruits also fell short on eyesight and weight standards, it said, blaming the overuse of smartphones and unhealthy diets.

Around 8 per cent of applicants were disqualified for varicocele, a swelling of the veins inside the scrotum.

The condition could lead to a vascular rupture or even infertility when diving, parachuting or enduring a big temperature change, it said.

The People’s Liberation Army is undergoing a massive overhaul in an ambitious plan to build a modern fighting force on a par with the West.

But the military is having a tougher time finding new recruits as more young couples decide not have children. Analysts have also expressed concerns about the willingness of children from one-child families to fight.

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Amid the shrinking the pool of potential applicants, the PLA has responded in the last few years by easing standards for new entrants, including requirements on height, weight and the maximum size of tattoos.

The maximum weight limit is now higher for the PLA than for the US Army.

For example, a man who is 177cm tall would be allowed in the PLA if he weighed 87kg. But the same recruit would generally exceed the maximum weight for the US military, according to official requirements.