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Recruitment and Conscription

Recruitment is suffering because despite some incentives, the younger, well-educated Chinese that the military wants are more attracted to the booming private sector. That has left the PLA reliant on conscription for about a third of its manpower. Every province has an annual conscription quota, with each conscript required to complete two years of military service. The military began allowing more second enlistments. China increased the frequency of its military recruitment and retirement to twice a year, up from once, starting 2020, to maintain a smooth flow of troops, the military's high vigilance and to better train new recruits. The change was announced in a statement on the recruitment work joint released by the State Council and the Central Military Commission in Beijing, the Xinhua News Agency reported on 16 January 2020.

The first recruitment was held from mid-February to the end of March, and the second from mid-August to the end of September, Xinhua reported, noting that retirement for military personnel also changed to twice a year. Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson at the Ministry of National Defense, said on 16 January 2020 that while the total number of annual recruits will remain stable compared with previous years, the increased frequency will allow a smooth flow of troops and maintain the military's high vigilance. This will further improve the quality of recruits and the recruitment training programs, which will contribute to combat capability development, Ren said.

Conscripts serve in the military for two years, according to the country's Military Service Law. University students remain as key recruitment targets.

The Military Service Law provided the legal basis for conscription, and it combined compulsory and voluntary service. All citizens between eighteen and twenty-two, regardless of sex, nationality, profession, family background, religion, or level of education, were obliged to perform military service. Men 18-24 years of age are subject to selective compulsory military service, with a 2 year service obligation. There is no minimum age for voluntary service (all officers are volunteers). Women 18-19 years of age who are high school graduates and who meet requirements for specific military jobs are subject to conscription, and a recent military decision allows women in combat roles. A very small number of women were inducted annually.

Annual quota numbers for both the PLA and PAP were estimated by the US DOD to be 500,000. Conscription in China with over 10,000,000 men reaching militarily significant age annually, of whom perhaps 8,000,000 are fit for service would produce an army of at least 16,000,000 men. In fact, conscripts in the PLA Ground Force appear to number about 800,000, only about five percent of the total potential number.

The system of conscription used by the PLA differs from Western practices. Instead of a general requirement of service for citizens of a certain age, the PLAs conscription system functions more as a levy, in which the PLA establishes the number of conscripts needed, which produces quotas that are imposed on local governments which are charged with providing a set number of soldiers or sailors. If the number of volunteers fails to meet quota despite efforts to cajole or convince candidates, local government officials may compel unwilling individuals to enter service. China does not release data on what share of recruits are compelled rather than volunteers.

The vast majority of NCOs come from conscripts who then elect to continue service in the PLA. Revisions in the NCO corps structure are intended to compensate for the decision to decrease the length of conscription service to two years for all services, and replaced the earlier system which had allowed conscripts to voluntarily extend their service obligation. Enlisted personnel can now potentially serve for up to 30 years, which would establish a continuously available core of soldiers from which the PLA could draw expertise and experience.

In the 1980s the PLA attempted to upgrade the quality of its inductees by changing recruiting practices. The PLA previously drew its recruits from rural youth of politically acceptable families. But the Military Service Law, the introduction of rural reforms offering greater economic opportunities for rural youth, and the PLA's requirements for higher educational levels caused recruitment to draw more recruits from better educated urban youth. Officers were drawn from military academy graduates; enlisted men and women who completed officer training in officially designated institutions and passed officer fitness tests; graduates of universities and special technical secondary schools; and civilian cadres and technical personnel recruited by nonmilitary units in the PLA. As a result of the new conscription and officer recruitment practices, the level of education in the PLA was much higher than that of the general population.

In 1987 approximately 100,000 women served in the PLA and represented one-tenth of the officer corps and one-quarter of the specialized technicians. Women served primarily in scientific research, communications, medical, and cultural units. Members of China's ethnic minorities also served in the PLA, but their percentage within the military was probably considerably lower than their proportion in the general population, partly because of their lower level of education and partly because government and party suspicion of their loyalties.

The Military Service Law stipulated changes in conditions of service. Compulsory terms of service were three years for the ground forces and four for the Air Force and Navy. Soldiers could elect another term of one or two years in the ground forces and one year in the Navy and Air Force. After completing five years of compulsory service, a soldier could switch to voluntary service and could serve an eight- to twelve-year term until the age of thirtyfive . The conscription law also made provisions for limited preferential treatment of service personnel and their families. However, military service was regarded by some as a hardship because of low pay, poor food, lowered marriage prospects, and difficulties in finding jobs after demobilization. To alleviate the unattractive aspects of military service and to help local economic development, the PLA instituted a program of dual-use training, whereby soldiers learned skills useful in civilian life in addition to military training.

The Chinese military will make some adjustment in its national defense student recruitment policy beginning from this year, and the purpose of the policy switch is to absorb more young talented people to join the army, China's Defense Ministry said on 26 May 2017. As a part of Chinese military reform, the 17-year-long national defense student system will also undergo a major reform, and starting from 2017, the military will directly select and recruit defense students from graduates of regular higher learning institutions, according to the Information Affairs Bureau under the Defense Ministry.

At the same time, the military will terminate enrolling defense students from senior high school graduates and selecting defense students from civil university undergraduates, the Information Bureau added. The adjustment of the national defense students enrollment policy mainly aims to further expand channels of cultivating military talents by combining military and civil efforts and have a more extensive utilization of national educational resources as well as to provide broader platforms for more talented young people to join the military, said the Information Bureau.

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Page last modified: 21-11-2021 12:32:08 ZULU