China has loosened its weight criteria for this year's military recruits in what is likely a response to the rising obesity rate among Chinese youth, insiders said.
Physical examinations of college students who applied to join the People's Liberation Army (PLA) began Monday in Beijing, while examinations for other young applicants will be held in August.
According to recruitment criteria posted on a website hosted by the Ministry of National Defense, male applicants should weigh no more than 30 percent over their "standard weight," a value the PLA calculates individually for each applicant based on his or her height.
Female applicants should weigh no more than 20 percent over their standard weight. Both measures are 5 percentage points higher than those in place in 2015.
"The relaxed weight standard is due to the increasing overweight rate of Chinese youths," Tong Jing, a staff member at the physical examination center of Puren Hospital in Beijing, told Beijing-based newspaper Legal Mirror. Tong also noted that 30 percent of applicants have passed the examinations so far.
According to the Report on the Nutrition and Chronic Disease Status of Chinese People released by China's National Health and Family Planning Commission in June 2015, the average weight of Chinese adult males rose from 62.7 kilograms to 66.2 kilograms from 2002 to 2012, while the average weight of adult females increased from 54.4 kilograms to 57.3 kilograms.
The report stated that the overweight rate of Chinese adults increased to 30.1 percent in 2012, 7.3 points higher than in 2002. Moreover, the obesity rate rose by 4.8 percentage points over the same period to 11.9 percent.
The report also noted a stark increase in the weight of children and teenagers age 6 to 17, with their overweight rate and obesity rate increasing by 5.1 percentage points and 4.3 percentage points, respectively, over the same period.
The applicants height criteria were also reduced by 2 centimeters to 160 centimeters for males and 158 centimeters for females. Female applicants are also banned from tattooing their lips, while male applicants are banned from tattooing their lips, eyebrows and eyes.