China's military training students need toughening up

Global Times
Zhang Tao

Last week I came across a TwoCents article in the Global Times Metro Shanghai which argued whether or not it is useful for China to continue with military training for its youngsters.

After reading this opinion piece, I came to the conclusion that the underlying issue is actually not whether military training should go on or not, but rather how Chinese students should be pushed to participate.

In China, military camps are part of a nationwide training network in which 50 million Chinese children aged 9 to 18 receive a brief army-style education.

The annual summer program is intended to inspire patriotism, teamwork and sacrifice to the spoiled generations of children who have grown up without siblings or hardship.

It is not "conscription" - the children do not join an actual army - but rather perform simulated military duties like jogging and folding bedsheets in an attempt to toughen them up mentally and physically.

I personally have not ever attended any military service in my home country, Turkey, due to the fact that I've been pursuing my studies abroad. Nor have I attended any kind of similar training, hence I cannot quite relate to the experiences of students who attend them.

Nonetheless, I have always been curious about societal militarization and the indoctrination of youth for the looming threat of war perpetuated by our nation's leaders.

In Turkey, for example, all males are automatically enlisted into the army for a minimum of six months, though such conscription is usually deferred until after we graduate from college.

I've heard mixed responses from my friends about their time in the military, from how unbearable it was to those who actually appreciated and benefited from the camaraderie.

Many conversations with my late grandfather used to be about his time in the military; he had hundreds of amusing stories to tell about the friendships that were fostered in the trenches and the bonds that were forged out of their collective adversity.

As much as I personally dread physical work and menial tasks such as those assigned in military service, I've always subconsciously been jealous of such camaraderie, especially given the fact that I never felt much kinship with the other students at my private high school.

I currently live in Singapore and have amassed a group of local friends who underwent local military training for two years right out of high school.

In this small island nation, all able-bodied male citizens of at least 18 years of age are obliged by law to serve 20 months of compulsory national service in the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force or the Singapore Civil Defense Force.

Unlike the mixed responses I've read about China's military camps, I've noticed all of my Singaporean friends repeating this phrase over and over again: "It was the best time of my life!"

Not to say that it was a walk in the park - their stories describe suffering in the sweltering jungles and endless physical and mental exertion in the barracks.

However, each of them marched out of their conscription stronger, tougher and more disciplined than when they entered, which ultimately benefits Singaporean society as a whole.

Having lived in Shanghai for many years, I respectfully must say that Chinese young adults could use a similar toughening up.

Chinese mainland men are physically softer and more emotionally sensitive than their Singaporean counterparts, which probably has something to do with the fact that China's military camps are, according to multiple news articles and firsthand accounts I've read, little more than a summer camp for the spoiled.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the China Military.


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