Why Is the Chinese Regime Having Trouble Recruiting More Soldiers?

April 9, 2021 Updated: April 11, 2021


The Chinese regime’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific region is becoming a hot topic, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping has told troops to prepare for war. However, there is a growing number of draft dodgers and deserters in China. What are the reasons behind this phenomenon? What does it reflect?

I used to work at the grassroots level of government organizations and assisted in the conscription process. I would like to share what I know about draft dodging and desertion in China.

First, a lot of young men refuse to serve in the military because they think it’s too difficult. Under the one-child policy, many young people are spoiled and do not want to bear hardships—this phenomenon is known as “little emperor syndrome.” Some of them find the recruit training very challenging, and when they think about the difficult days ahead, they will escape from the military camps regardless of the consequences.

The second reason is family obligations. For example, the young man doesn’t want to join the army because he is being groomed to take over the family business. This kind of family is often quite wealthy and has political ties.

The third reason is ideological resistance to the CCP. For example, many people who lived through the Cultural Revolution don’t trust the CCP and they believe the military only protects the regime’s interests. Some people may not pass the political censorship of the authorities. Those who could be ineligible for military service include: dissidents or outspoken critics of the CCP; protesters; petitioners (those who appeal their complaints and grievances to central authorities in Beijing); Falun Gong adherents and other members of religious groups targeted by the CCP.

The fourth reason is low morale. It has been getting worse for Chinese draft dodgers in recent years. Since Xi Jinping took over the military, the CCP has issued strict penalty requirements on people who refuse to serve in the military.

On April 4, authorities in Shushan district of Hefei city, Anhui Province, posted a notice with regards to the treatment of a raw recruit who refused to continue to serve in the army.

According to the local government’s website, Liu Shuai, a native of Hebei Province, was admitted to Anhui Agricultural University in 2019 and enlisted in the army in September 2020. He was assigned to serve in a military unit under the Xinjiang Military Region. Shortly after enlisting, Liu asked to leave the army. Two months later, his name was removed from the military. But it left a permanent record in his household registration booklet, citing “objection of military service.” State-run media published Liu’s story and called him a “negative example.”

Liu faced eight penalties, including a fine of 46,866 yuan (about $7,200). He was prohibited from working for a government agency or state-owned company, re-enrolling in Anhui Agricultural University in the next two years, leaving the country in the next two years, and setting up his own business in the next three years.

These penalties are severe, as they’ve taken away the young man’s future in China. His only way out is to leave the country after two years’ time when the ban is removed.

Soon after Liu’s situation was publicized, various government departments reported the story again in such a high-profile manner, in an attempt to deter more people from refusing or resisting military service. But, it hasn’t worked.

The frequent incidents of young people refusing to serve in the military, after much official publicity, can also affect those still in the service and bring a subtle shock to military morale.

According to CCP’s National Conscription website, “Chinese male citizens who have reached 18 years of age by December 31 shall register themselves under the law” and “those who have registered can enlist directly online for active service.”

In reality, male citizens reaching the age of 18 cannot decide on their own whether they register or enlist themselves, as they are already included in the overall accounts of the local conscription office. Anyone who refuses to register or enlist is considered a serious political problem and is treated as a deserter.

It is not hard to imagine that the authorities must have done a lot of so-called ideological work beforehand, persuading these young people to register and threatening them with penalties in case they refuse to enlist themselves.

There are also social injustices that affect the military. A few years ago in Yunnan, an active serviceman was detained after he took a video of his family’s property that was forcibly demolished by local authorities. Over the years, millions of Chinese have lost their homes through forced demolitions and forced relocations of villages and towns when local governments decided to reclaim the land for more profitable use.

In recent years, many protests have erupted over the lack of rights and protection for military veterans.

The CCP’s military has been corrupt throughout its history, and Xi Jinping has not been able to solve that problem since he took power. With all these complicated factors, can the CCP’s military really “act at any second” and remain on “full-time combat readiness” as Xi has requested in his mobilization order for the training of the armed forces?

Yue Shan is a freelance writer who used to work for the CCP’s government organizations and listed Chinese real estate companies in his early years. He is familiar with the inner workings of the CCP’s system and its political and business relations and is dedicated to analyzing Chinese politics and current trends. He has been a long-time contributor to several Chinese media outlets based in the United States and Taiwan.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.