Unease over a lack of masculinity and growing femininity amongst young Chinese men in their late teens and early 20s has some in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) concerned about its possible impact on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), according to an article published in the Study Times (學習時報), a magazine affiliated with the China’s Central Party School Publishing House.
Written by Xu Sen (許森), the article claims that the worst thing an army has to fear is not a lack of opponents, but a lack of “strong” adversaries.
Most of the PLA’s recruits have never been to battle, and the children from one child families born in the 1980s and 1990s account for a majority of recruits, the article said.
The growing femininity of men is directly impacting the quality of the PLA, making it a “socially disturbing” phenomenon, the article said.
“It has been 31 years since the PLA fought an actual battle, and peace undermines an army’s fighting ability,” the article said, adding that the suggestion soldiers do not need to physically exert themselves in the age of technological warfare is wrong. It listed US GIs fighting in Iraq as an example.
“They walk hundreds of miles with gear weighing 10kg, stand duty in tents exceeding 50oC and face guerilla attacks from out of nowhere. You have to be strong of body and mind for that,” the article said, concluding with a call to remain vigilant, maintain the PLA’s martial spirit and always be battle-ready.
Commenting on the article, officials from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said that the military does not ask its soldiers about their sexual preference.
“The younger generations are less pressure-resistant. The more feminine recruits entering service have to be watched carefully, in case bullying happens,” they said.
As for training, it’s well known in the military that the younger generation is not used to strenuous exercises, a retired Taiwanese officer said on condition of anonymity.
As such, the practice of holding exercises outdoors when the temperature exceeded 32oC was scrapped, the official said.
The practice was only later restored in 2006 by then-minister of national defense Hu Chen-pu (胡鎮埔), saying that the PLA could invade Taiwan anytime and that “it would not choose weather suitable for our soldiers to fight.”
The official added that there have always been a few soldiers with a slightly more feminine temperament.
Speaking of a case he witnessed a decade ago, the official mentioned he had come across a soldier who spent at least half an hour applying facial cream and fixing his eyebrows each day, adding that the solder even rubbed on sun block and protection cream before exercises and drills.
The Army watched him closely, concerned he might be bullied, but found that he was treated respectfully by his comrades, the officer said, adding that aside from being overtly attentive to his appearance, the Army found nothing wrong with the recruit and did not interfere.