How to Join the People’s Liberation Army: Pay Up

July 22, 2014

As described by Bloomberg Businessweek, in China, joining the army will cost you.

To enlist in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), potential recruits have to take tests. To make sure their sons and daughters pass, families pay up. At one recruitment office in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, this year’s going rate, depending on your guanxi, or connections, is as much as 99,000 yuan ($16,000), says Wang, a recruitment officer in the province who asked that his full name not be used because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly. Limited openings, plus a high failure rate on the fitness exam, push parents to buy spots for their children during the annual enlistment drive that runs through September. Success offers a stable jobs and, for some, an escape from rural poverty.

The price varies, Wang says. His old army friends “asked me what the current price tag is, and I said ‘around 80,000 to 90,000 yuan for you guys.’ If your guanxi was really strong, it’d cost you around 50,000 to 60,000 yuan; if it was just so-so, you would have to spend 100,000 yuan at least.”

A smarter person than me said that it is one thing to be belligerent and competent. It’s another to be belligerent and incompetent. If you fall somewhere in between those two extremes, it can get complicated quickly.

Corruption affects an institution in unpredictable ways. A bureaucracy will usually “do its thing” and act within institutional constraints, but institutional constraints are tougher to predict when pervasive corruption weakens an entire entity. God luck to the per on that has the job guessing how a massive entity with many misaligned and internally corrupt incentives will behave in future South China Sea crises.


(H/T Tyler Cowen)


John Thorne is a senior consultant at Diligent Innovations, a defense and national security consulting firm in Washington, DC.


Photo credit: Tomoaki INABA