TIME China

China’s Military Reduces Requirements to Allow Shorter, Wider Recruits

Chinese People's Liberation Army's honor
Chinese People's Liberation Army's honor guards line up during a welcome ceremony for Turkish President Abdullah Gul at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 25, 2009. Liu Jin—AFP/Getty Images

China's military has reduced its requirements to allow shorter, heavier recruits as well as those with mental illnesses to join the army

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has eased physical standards, removed exclusions banning people with mental illnesses and promised ramped up entertainment facilities for soldiers—all in an effort to enlist more highly educated recruits.

During an annual recruitment drive on Monday, the Chinese military introduced new height requirements, which have been reduced by 2 cm to a minimum height of 160 cm for men and 158 cm for women. Weight restrictions have also been loosened to reflect the general weight gains across the nation. According to China Daily, the PLA also reduced eyesight requirements, noting that nearly 70% of Chinese students are nearsighted. In addition, soldiers with tattoos will now be able to join up.

The PLA has also lifted a ban on recruiting those with mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, dissociative disorder and schizophrenia.

Recruiting officials told China Daily that the looser requirements would attract better quality recruits, allowing the military to be more efficient and stronger. Meanwhile, the office said that only recruits with high school diplomas would be accepted in the municipalities of Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing and Shanghai. The number of recruits without diplomas in other areas will also be greatly reduced.

Increased pay is another carrot, with new soldiers in the eastern province of Jiangsu to earn at least 159,200 yuan ($25,600) in the first two years of their service if they have graduated from a university or were studying prior to enrollment. “We hope that more talented people can join the military and serve the country,” a recruit officer told China Daily.

The PLA also promised to double its budget on jukeboxes, musical instruments and other entertainment for the soldiers. The military said the new standards would “satisfy the spiritual and cultural needs of the soldiers,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Looser standards come at a time when the world’s largest army has expanded its weapons program to update warships, missiles, drones and jets. The Pentagon reported that China’s military spending exceeded $145 billion in 2013.

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