BEIJING (Xinhua) – Keep fit or lose rank. Members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been reminded to stay in shape or else they’ll lose out on promotions.
“Soldiers are easily gaining weight in peacetime,” said Li Daguang, an expert with the National Defense University. “It has been more than 30 years since the Chinese army fought in a war.”
With improved living conditions, changing lifestyles and dietary structure, soldiers live comfortably and are putting on weight, Li said. Obesity is also a common problem in China, especially for children.
“Being overweight will not only harm soldiers’ image, but also affect their performance on the battlefield and the troop’s overall combat power,” he said, adding the weight issue has been ongoing.
The PLA has set compulsive standards for soldiers’ weight and vowed to pay more attention to military fitness training, which aims to build a stronger force, according to the “reform and development of military physical training (2015-2020)” guideline published Friday.
“Physical training should be linked to personnel management,” said the guideline, referring to promotions or demotions. Overweight soldiers and officers will not get promotion.
Military physical training is “a basic way of enhancing soldiers and officers’ physical and mental quality” and helps cultivate combat power, it said, calling for innovative training methods and outlining a distinctive military training system.
“It is strength but not weight, muscle not fat that is to be compared on the future war field,” PLA Major General Luo Yuan said.
The guideline reflects the principle of running the army strictly, Luo said, it is an international convention to quantify soldiers’ weight standards.
Senior Colonel Zhang Junshe, a researcher with the PLA’s Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the weight problem is even bigger for those working in military offices.
“They are older than front-line soldiers and often work overtime and do little sport, especially military computer technicians whose average weight surpasses standards,” said Zhang.
The PLA did not disclose new weight standards, but those for soldiers and academic or administrative officers should differ.
The Chinese public often jokes about big bellied PLA generals and policemen, questioning their ability of fighting a real war on the battlefield.
Some of them are out of shape due to excessive banquet drinking and other unhealthy life styles, which can be linked to corruption. However, since the Communist Party of China’s frugality campaign started in late 2012, banquet drinking has seen a drop. Observers say the PLA weight standards will also make promotions more transparent, as graft-busters found bribing for promotions in the military is common.