China Seeks Shorter, ‘More Portly’ Troops With Brainpower

China’s military has relaxed its height, eyesight and weight requirements for soldiers in an effort to attract more educated personnel, the state-owned China Daily newspaper said today.

Male recruits can now be 1.6 meters tall (5 foot 2 inches), down from 1.62 meters, while the minimum height for women will reduced by the same margin to 1.58 meters, the paper said, citing the Ministry of Defense’s recruitment office. The upper weight limit for male enlistees was also relaxed to “allow more portly young men” into the military, it said.

Eyesight standards were also lowered because nearly 70 percent of high school and university students in China are short-sighted, it said. Mental illnesses including schizophrenia, dissociative disorder, depression and bipolar disorder has also been removed from a list of conditions barring candidates from enlisting, according to the paper.

The looser requirements come as President Xi Jinping tries to hone the world’s largest army by headcount into a professional fighting force capable of winning wars. Efforts by China’s military to attract better-educated recruits to match its modern weaponry has been hampered by a decline in the health of candidates. According to Beijing’s army recruitment office, some 60 percent of college students fail the physical fitness examination, with most graduates being overweight, the China Daily reported in August.

Outgrown Tanks

Today the average Chinese soldier is 2 centimeters taller and has a waist 5 centimeters larger than 20 years ago, the paper reported in February, saying some were too big to fit comfortably inside tanks. China’s height demands are still tougher than in the U.S. Army, which accepts soldiers who are 60 inches (1.52 meters) tall, according to measurements published on

The People’s Liberation Army will also be more tolerant of tattoos, the China Daily said. People who have less than 2 centimeters of tattoos that show while in uniform or a total of 10 centimeters of tattoos are now allowed to join the military, it said. Though tattoos with “obscene or violent matter or referring to illegal organizations,” will not be allowed, it said.

Enlisting more high-quality soldiers is “extremely important” for building a strong and capable military, the China Daily said, citing unnamed recruitment officials. Military recruits with university diplomas from eastern Jiangsu province will earn at least 159,200 yuan ($25,580) during their two years of service, it said.

China is also following the example of the U.S. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps by increasing incentives for graduates to serve in the armed forces.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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