Enrollment in China’s Military Academies Declines Amid CCP’s Increasingly Militant Posture

By Justin Zhang
Justin Zhang
Justin Zhang
Justin Zhang has been analyzing and writing articles on China issues since 2012. He can be contacted at justinzhang1996@gmail.com
June 30, 2022 Updated: June 30, 2022

With continuing tensions across the Taiwan Strait, China’s military academies saw an enrollment slump despite a downward admission score requirement in recent years.

Several Chinese news media reported on the dilemma of the military academies’ inability to meet annual enrollment mandates.

In 2022, dozens of military colleges and universities in China are scheduled to enroll 15,000 students, 2,000 more than that last year. Enrollment expansion, reduced admissions scores, and priority admission at a state-owned institution, did not attract enough students.

One of the top Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) military academies, the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, Hunan Province, has lowered admission scores for years. In 2019, its first batch of science undergraduate admissions scores was 665 points; in 2020, it was down to 652 points; and in 2021, slid to 646 points. This year’s admissions score has not yet been finalized, but the score line in some regions is already lower than last year. In China, admissions scores vary by region.

Shrinking enrollment in military schools first happened in 2019, which might be linked to the CCP’s ambition of unifying Taiwan and an increased likelihood of a military conflict in the Indo-Pacific region, according to some experts.

In early January 2019, CCP leader Xi Jinping delivered a strongly worded speech, claiming that unification with Taiwan would be the first task of the CCP in the future.

Xi also told the Taiwanese people that “independence of Taiwan is the end of the road,” a threat that clearly indicates that if they reject the CCP’s “peaceful reunification,” war will be inevitable for the democratically-ruled island.

Two days later, in a central military committee meeting, Xi stressed that the CCP is in a period of vital strategic opportunities that need to strengthen awareness and preparation for war within the military and to ensure a quick and effective response to the event of war.

The year 2019 marked a watershed year also for military colleges to enter a mode of readiness.

“The Chinese people all know that their children will face war and death if they go into the military,” current political affairs commentator Gao Fengyi told The Epoch Times, citing that no one wants to be sent to die on the battlefield. Such statements make it difficult to recruit people for the CCP’s military schools and army.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year added to CCP’s thoughts on waging a potential war.

Epoch Times Photo
A soldier of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) takes a selfie in front of a J-10 jet fighter ahead of the Airshow China 2014 in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, on November 10, 2014. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

On June 21, 29 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defense zone, including 17 fighter planes, six bombers, two airborne early warning planes, one anti-submarine plane, one electro-detection plane, one electronic interference plane, and one air refueling plane.

The CCP’s move appeared to be an attempt to flaunt its ongoing war preparedness after it repeatedly announced its hardline stance on Taiwan earlier in June.

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe claimed on June 12 that if Taiwan moves toward independence, the CCP will fight a war at any cost.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a June 13 press conference that China has sovereignty over the Taiwan Strait.

On the same day, the CCP released a “non-war” military action plan for the army, which provides the legal basis for the regime to conduct “non-war military operations” abroad.

The CCP’s coercion of Taiwan is pressing and the United States will continue to assist Taiwan in improving its self-defense, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin emphasized in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asian security conference in Singapore, on June 11.

Gao told The Epoch Times that the CCP’s frequent belligerent moves in recent years are the main reason for enrollment declines in military colleges in China.

Fearing the imminence of war, most parents keep their children out of military service for safety concerns, and students with high scores also tend to not apply to military schools or become soldiers, Gao said.

Ellen Wan contributed to this article.

Justin Zhang
Justin Zhang has been analyzing and writing articles on China issues since 2012. He can be contacted at justinzhang1996@gmail.com