Chinese efforts to improve the quality of their troops are running into a lot of problems. This despite the fact that the military is particularly keen to obtain more highly educated recruits. The growing amount of technology used by the military requires troops with more education. The basic problem is that there are not enough young Chinese with the required education and physical fitness to provide all the recruits the military needs. In response the military has relented on some of the physical requirements. Even with that some 60 percent of otherwise qualified college educated candidates cannot pass the physical.
Many Chinese parents see all this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. That’s because the culture of corruption still exists in the Chinese military, as it has for thousands of years. For centuries the military was considered a reasonable career choice for anyone with the right physical, mental and psychological qualifications. There were always paying jobs for competent and dependable killers. When there were too many qualified candidates families would use influence, cash or a combination of both to get their kids in. That has not changed but today and it costs $5,000-$15,000 to get someone in who is not among the most qualified. That’s a lot of money in China, where the average annual income is about $8,000. But getting a young man into the military is seen as a good investment as there is little risk of layoffs and there are lots of promotion opportunities. War (at least a major one) is unlikely and a job is a job.
The problem is that the bribe does not get a completely unqualified candidate in. The kid can come up a bit short in all categories then a bribe will get him in, with the understanding that officials will try to cover for the kid, up to a point. The military is still reducing its manpower (in order to buy more high-tech equipment and afford to pay more for better qualified troops) and an underqualified recruit who made it in because of a big bribe will have to hustle to avoid being removed in the next round of reductions. Of course a bribe can also take care of that but after a while you are paying more in bribes than you are making and the Chinese know how to keep track of that sort of thing.