New regulations deal with teenagers from age 13, but in fact another ordinance had already extended the program to primary schools.
by Hu Zimo
Earlier this month, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the State Council, and the Central Military Commission issued an interesting document called “Opinions on Strengthening and Improving National Defense Education in the New Era.” Official Chinese media carried interviews with CCP and military experts explaining what it is all about.
“National Defense Education” (国防教育) basically means that all Chinese students should have a taste of real military life. This will make them more prepared in case they will be conscripted into the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) but should also reinforce their ideological commitment to the CCP, since the loyalty to the Party of the PLA is deemed to be exemplary.
All 18-year-old male Chinese should register for the draft and can be called to serve for two years. In practice, this system does not mean that all will serve in the PLA, since there is a number of volunteers (including women) high enough to make conscripting non-volunteers unnecessary. However, the CCP insists that all should be prepared, should the call come.
The new “Opinions” establish a mandatory yearly period of 21 days of military training for college students, and 14 days for high school students, They acknowledge that junior high schools, which Chinese teenagers enter at age 13, may not all be equipped for military training. However, they are encouraged to prepare themselves to introduce 7-day military training for their students.
This is not all, as the “Opinions” require the universities and schools to organize military summer and winter camp activities “in a standardized and orderly manner,” invite PLA officers and veterans for lectures, and so on.
In fact, for many Chinese students military education starts even before the age of 13. In January this year, the Ministry of Education and the Political Work Department of the Central Military Commission issued the “Notice on Being More Effective in Establishing Demonstration Schools for National Defense Education in Primary and Secondary Schools.”
This Notice included primary schools (for children aged 6–12), some of which should introduce pioneer programs in National Defense Education. Schools should volunteer for this, the Notice said, but if not enough apply, selected schools will be asked to introduce the programs by the Provincial Education Administrative Departments and the Provincial Military Administration. This is not the kind of proposal the principal of a Chinese school can refuse.