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Military service looking better to China's university students

2011-12-08 10:55    Ecns.cn     Web Editor: Wang Fan
Military service has become a more attractive option for young Chinese with higher levels of education.

Military service has become a more attractive option for young Chinese with higher levels of education.

(Ecns.cn) – University students have become a new source of growth in China's army recruitment in recent years, which the government hopes will lead to the increasing modernization of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and higher quality personnel among its ranks.

With the amendment to the military recruitment law approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Oct. 29, 2011, previous problems university students faced when deciding to choose military service – such as the feasibility of resuming their studies after leaving the armed forces – have all been resolved.

Meanwhile, as the PLA pledges to increase incomes and provide well-educated enlistees with preferential policies, military service has gradually become a more attractive option for young Chinese with higher levels of education, making the two-year service period a potentially worthwhile investment.

Universities a rich source for military

Chang Wei is a sophomore studying at the Peking University Health Science Center. Last year, the post-90s boy had thought of joining the army, but was initially discouraged by the idea of suspending his studies for two years. However, in 2011 Chang finally decided to serve his country.

Chang is just one of thousands of army applicants studying at leading universities who no longer need to worry about the duration any more, since the new policies offer them full support.

After the amendment to the military recruitment law was approved in October, on Nov. 1, 2011, the Regulations on the Resettlement of Demobilized Soldiers came into force. Moreover, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education and the Headquarters of the General Staff also promised preferential policies concerning subsidies for tuition fees. It was reported that the subsidy can be worth up to 6,000 yuan ($927.6) a year, or 24,000 yuan ($3,710) in total for a four-year university course. Applicants can also use the money to repay student loans.

With such attractive incentives, more and more university students are beginning to consider the choice of joining the army. In 2009, most young individuals who joined in the first wave of recruitment were graduates from vocational colleges, not leading universities. But in 2010 the situation improved, as 120,000 students in their final year signed up. In 2011, the number of recruits from leading universities has also increased, with many coming from top schools such as Peking University and Tsinghua University.

Military service brightens future

Another reason why university students have started opting for the army is to avoid unemployment pressure. In 2009, about 6.1 million students graduated from China's universities and entered the job market, where they had to compete with 1 million unemployed young adults who had already finished school the previous year.

With the charm of serving in the army growing, they also find that there will be more opportunities for promotion and enrollment in military academies after finishing two years of compulsory service.

In 2006, the number of university enlistees who got promoted in the army or the People's Armed Police was only 496, but the number hit an historic high of nearly 4,000 in 2011, which implies that more and more military officers are coming from universities, according to a report cited by the Southern Weekend.

In addition, if they do not choose to continue along the military course after two years, they will still enjoy preferential policies, such as when they take the National Civil Service Examination (and they also don't have to worry about the problem of registered permanent residence any more). Moreover, when attending the National Postgraduate Entrance Examination, they will receive an added 10 points to their final score.

Hong Kong not to be left out

This year's PLA recruitment plan is only open to the Chinese mainland; university students in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are currently not covered. Nevertheless, citizens in Hong Kong have been showing a strong desire to join the army in recent years.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Chairwoman of the New People's Party and former Secretary for Security in Hong Kong, has proposed that the PLA should accept Hong Kong youth aged between 18 and 25 to serve in the army on a voluntary basis, according to the Southern Weekend.

In March 2011, the proposal was raised again by Lu Wenduan, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), during the two sessions.

In June, when Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, paid a visit to Hong Kong, he responded that such a desire should be supported, but that all things have to follow procedure.

On August 1, 2011, the Young DAB released the result of a survey concerning this issue after interviewing 380 Hong Kong citizens aged between 12 and 37, which showed that over 75% thought that the PLA Hong Kong Garrison should engage itself more in local community activities, while about 46% held a good impression of them.