Military first

In contrast to many other countries the military in China is not under the direct control of the state, but the troops of the People’s Liberation Army are committed to the party (CCP). The army is the one in the world by the largest number of active troops and although according to the statistics, there the ratio of armed forces to the whole population seems considerably low, every know and then one runs into a group of soldiers in their uniforms. Even when they are doing sightseeing with their family it seems to be common to wear uniform, at least I saw several army personnel in the Summer Palace.

Soldiers near Tian’anmen
Soldiers near Tian’anmen Square.

Why do they were uniforms in public places? Actually I don’t know, but I might have a guess: It’s to their own advantage. Besides receiving the respect of other people, if they are easily identifiable as member of the army, admission is reduced at tourist sites, people are encouraged to have soldiers enter buses first (“Pregnant and servicemen first”) and in train stations they even get their own waiting hall so they don’t have to share the limited space in the regular, often noisy and crowded waiting halls with the regular passengers.

Waiting hall for servicemen
Soldiers enjoy the comfort of a separate waiting lounge.

How does the military recruit? There is no military draft in China, however all university students are required to take part in some military training (Junxun, 军训) during their first summer holidays. Our teacher told us, that at that point students seem to be most obedient, on the one hand because they are still relatively new to the university and the youngest students on campus, on the other hand, the weather during the summer holidays usually is very hot, causing the students to not risk any conflicts with their teachers in the training sessions. But my language exchange partner told me, that the weeks of military training went by relatively fast – without any great effort he managed to get the (unpopular) service behind him.
Both male and female students are required to take part in the program to continue their studies, so most students nowadays see it as a necessary evil and try the best to turn it into a (fun) holiday program with their friends to the largest possible extend.

Students in uniform during military training on campus
Students in uniform on campus.

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