An article published in the PLA Daily on Monday called for a pay increase for officers as an important step in pushing forward professionalism in the military.
“[The country] should establish a munificent compensation system for military officers, to increase the career’s attraction,” said the article, which was written by Du Renhuai, a professor at the PLA Nanjing Institute of Politics.
The Communist Party’s third plenum in November included the concept of professionalism among officers as a major part of military reform.
In consideration of the job situation of the officers’ family members, the education of their children, the risks of the profession, and other elements, officers are entitled to be provided with relatively higher payment, which should be generally higher than that of civil servants, said the article.
Officers’ economic, political and social status should be at the top end of the society, it added.
The article also argued that officers should be given solid assurances on their benefits after their retirement from the military in terms of housing, healthcare, insurance, training and other aspects.
Qiao Liang, a major general in Chinese Air Force and a commentator on military affairs, echoed the article’s viewpoints.
“In most countries, military officers are paid higher than civil servants. It’s a general practice that China should follow,” said Qiao.
“The military officers need to risk their lives in war, or at many other assignments like rescue efforts in times of earthquake and floods. What they earn is sometimes at the price of their lives,” he added.
A colonel based in Shanghai, who declined to be named, told the South China Morning Post his basic salary was nearly 8,000 yuan (HK$10,100) per month, slightly higher than civil servants of the same rank.
“But civil officials can receive various [forms of] compensation besides their basic salaries. In total, our payment is definitely much lower,” he said.
The colonel’s last pay increase was in 2011, when he received around 1,000 yuan. “Everything is getting much more expensive these days. My salary could only barely make my family survive in such an expensive big city.”
Qiao Liang said regional differences should be taken into account when considering payment system reforms.
“In underdeveloped areas like Gansu or Tibet, officers’ income might be enough to support their families. But in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, they might face financial difficulties.”
China has been increasing its defence budget at double-digit pace in recent years. In 2013, the country’s military budget rose by 10.7 per cent to 720 billion yuan. Military analysts believe it could see another double-digit increase this year.
“In the 1980s and 1990s, salary payment could take 40 to 50 per cent of the total military budget. But the ratio has decreased in the past decade, with more money spent on military equipment and drills.
“Some people might argue China doesn’t need to pay more to military officers, as we have enjoyed peace for over three decades. But I think we need to pay our officers better, as nobody can guarantee peace forever,” said Qiao.