Changing Physiology of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army


PLA Tank, courtesy of the AFP
PLA Tank, courtesy of the AFP

       China’s military – the People’s Liberation Army – announced the data results from “a new database of human parameter measurements” started in 2009 that covered over 20,000 soldiers of all ranks and age groups. This report concluded that Chinese soldiers are getting taller – by two centimeters – and fatter – by five centimeters. While this appears to be a small change, PLA officials fear that this increase of weight may impair soldiers’ performance while operating cramped tanks and using maladjusted rifle stocks. They plan to use this information while designing new equipment for the PLA. One example was incorporating the data from “force capacity of hand muscles” in order to “make sure the best exerted force to trigger a pistol so as to avoid shooting precision due to the over-exertion of finger forces and misfire due to the over-easiness of the triggering” in future weapon designs and marksmanship techniques.

                Concurrently, the PLA released plans to build recreational facilities for soldiers in an effort to combat weight problems. These facilities called “three-room and one-centers” – library, entertainment, communications, and fitness – are stocked with “4,000-plus books, 10 satellite phones, billiards tables, table tennis, karaoke, tread mills, exercise bikes.” The first center is being built for peacekeeping Chinese engineers in Mali. The central government has allocated a grant of ten million yuan to build such centers. Thus, the PLA is adapting to the times by noting changes in soldiers’ physiology, and adapting equipment and institutions accordingly.

AFP. “China soldiers too big for outdated tanks: report.” February 19, 2014.

China Military Online. “PLA updates database of human body parameter measurements.” February 18, 2014.


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