During the ’30s it was clear that Germany was preparing for war, but few had the courage to publicly say so.
Equally, in our day, it is obvious that China is preparing its people for conquest.
A Students Military Training Work Regulation jointly issued by China’s ministry of education, the general staff headquarters and the general political department of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) on April 21 will formalise military training throughout the country’s high schools and universities.
On paper, China already has a system of conscription requiring all citizens aged 18-22 to carry out 24 months of military service. In practice, Beijing has never enforced the draft as the PLA has always been able to recruit enough volunteers from peasant youth, desperate to get out of the impoverished countryside. Young people seeking to enter tertiary education have been exempt from military service.
Increasingly, the Chinese leadership has sought to transform the PLA into a smaller hi-tech force. However, the purpose of the student training program is not primarily to attract more educated recruits. Last year the PLA enlisted only 10,000 university students throughout the country. The overriding aim is political, rather than military, and reflects deep concerns in the Beijing bureaucracy about the potential for rebellion among the new generation of Chinese youth.
A significant component of the military training is ideological. The stated aim is “to allow students to grasp basic military skills and theory, and enhance their understanding of defence and the consciousness of national security”. The plan is to strengthen the submission of students to “organisation” and “discipline”, as well as to instill the values of “patriotism”, “collectivism” and “revolutionary heroism”.
The new policy calls for an expansion of defence courses and professional military staff on tertiary campuses. In each high school, at least one director must be appointed in charge of the military training. Education departments will establish a system of joint offices with the PLA to direct school military training. The new military training will be compulsory for all high school and college students, and their performance will be part of their education records.
The regulation calls for a national campaign of student military training to be held every five years. Each province must hold a major training seminar every 3-5 years. Every other aspect of education in China is subject to the market principle of “user pays”. Student military training, however, is to be financed by the government and the PLA—an indication that it has top priority. Any charge on students is strictly prohibited.
The state media has promoted the new policy as a positive step to “steel” young people, who have supposedly been spoiled as the single child of their urban parents. In reality, it is not the impact of the one-child policy that the Stalinist leadership fears, but the vast social changes that have take place over the past 30 years as a result of its open embrace of capitalist market reform.