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China’s GI Janes told to mind looks

world Updated: Oct 12, 2009 22:56 IST
Reshma Patil

The world’s biggest and secretive military in China has set new standards to recruit women soldiers — ‘appearance, artistic skill and eloquence’.

On October 1, Chinese women militia, all of identical 1.6 m height, goose-stepped smartly in pink uniforms during China’s 60th anniversary military parade. Female fighter jet pilots made their debut public flight over the iconic Tiananmen Square.

On Monday, the government-run Chinese media announced that the 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has new recruitment standards for women that sound similar to the obsessive recruitment of tall women with perfect six-teeth smiles to help present medals during the Beijing Olympics.

“The new regulations say all female candidates will be graded in terms of their eloquence, artistic skills and even their appearance by a panel of judges selected from both the military and civilian departments,’’ said Xinhua agency. Women
members of the ruling Communist Party will be ‘favoured’, said the report. China is said to have the world’s largest number of women soldiers.

“It’s a glorious career,’’ Captain Luo Ying, 26, from southwest Sichuan province had told Hindustan Times during a rare media visit to a PLA division in Beijing in July. “My parents are workers and I can release the family’s burden,” she explained.

The Chinese media said the standards would attract “more educated recruits”. To ease unemployment, the conscription office of the ministry of national defence also raised the maximum age for women graduates and undergraduates from 21 and 22 years up to 24 years. The minimum age for women recruits in the PLA is 17 years.

Xinhua quoted an anonymous conscription official saying the new selection method would prevent “illegal practices”.