China’s Armed Forces Accepts Overweight Recruits as the New Normal

By | Mar 17, 2017 10:48 PM EDT
Too fat

China's new problem: soldiers that are too fat to fight.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has made less stringent the physical requirements for recruits entering its military academies in recognition of the prevalence of overweight males and females in the population.

The PLA recently amended the physical examination standards for military academies, specifically by considering for recruitment candidates whose weights would have excluded them under existing physical standards.

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In making another concession to the reality of overweight and obese youth, the PLA said the new standards better match the physical and mental conditions of young Chinese. Young Chinese have changed physically due to social and economic development and improved living standards, said the PLA.

The amended standards allow a male candidate weighing up to 30 percent more than the standard body weight for his height to pass the examination. For female candidates the maximum is 20 percent over the standard.

Standard weight for candidates, in kilograms, is the difference between his or her height in centimeters and 110, according to existing standards.

The original standards released in 2006 require that male candidates more than 25 percent heavier than the standard weight for their height, and female candidates exceeding the standard by over 15 percent, won't pass the physical examination.

The amendment made other changes to the military academy physical examination. The PLA will allow candidates to have larger tattoos and canceled several examination items such as checks for carsickness, seasickness and chronic sinusitis.

The intractable problem of bulging waistlines among combat and non-combat personnel in the PLA's three services was brought to public attention in Feb. 2014 when the official People's Liberation Army Daily reported the average Chinese soldier was now five centimeters wider at the waist compared to 20 years ago. There are some 3.2 million personnel in the PLA.

These big bellied men are having trouble getting into their tanks that were designed over 30 years ago for slimmer men. They also feel more cramped in the already cramped interior of Chinese tanks. The study that brought out these findings recommended upgrading military equipment to take into account these realities.

Recently, the semi-official Global Times said the PLA now accepts male and female recruits that weigh 30 percent and 20 percent above the "standard weight." These numbers are five percent higher than in 2015.

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