Rising unemployment in China due to the COVID-19 pandemic could benefit the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by allowing it to attract new, better educated recruits, a Taiwanese security researcher said on Friday.
Chen Ying-hsuan (陳穎萱), a policy analyst at the Division of Chinese Politics and Military Affairs at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a government-funded think tank, made the remarks in an article published in the Defense Security Biweekly magazine.
About 8.74 million university students are expected to graduate in China next month, while Chinese companies’ demand for fresh graduates fell 16.77 percent annually in the first quarter of this year, Chen said in the article, titled “Worsening Unemployment Shaking China’s Efforts to Maintain Stability.”
Six Chinese government departments early this month launched a joint action plan to help new graduates cope with difficulties in finding jobs, especially at a time when the pandemic has forced businesses to stop hiring, she said.
One of the 10 initiatives in the action plan is to use incentives to recruit more university graduates to the PLA, Chen said.
“The unemployment wave could lure more good-quality university graduates to consider joining the military, thus helping the PLA’s plight of having difficulty recruiting the specialized personnel it needs,” Chen said.
“We should continue to watch the results of this recruitment plan and observe whether the PLA’s human capital and its battle capabilities improve,” she said.
Chen did not provide numbers, but according to a Foreign Policy magazine article published in August 2016, nearly 150,000 of the PLA’s 400,000 annual recruits in 2014 were college students and graduates.
While retention continues to be a challenge and high-school graduates still comprise the largest single source of recruits, the PLA is increasingly focusing on education, the article said.
Chen also said that China is facing a threat of labor unrest, as the communist country’s true unemployment rate is said to have reached 20 percent, citing an estimate from Chinese economic analyst Li Xunlei (李迅雷), whose report was taken down from his social media account on April 26, the same day he posted it.
China has recorded at least 168 cases of mass labor protests since January, Chen said, citing data from the China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization.
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