Unemployment due to COVID-19 could benefit China’s PLA: analyst

The People's Liberation Army / Photo: China News Service

TAIPEI (CNA) — Unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic could benefit the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by allowing it to lure new blood with higher educational backgrounds, according to a Taiwanese security researcher.

Chen Ying-hsuan (陳穎萱), a policy analyst at the Division of Chinese Politics and Military Affairs under the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a government-funded thinktank, made the observation in an article in the May 22 issue of the Defense Security Biweekly magazine.

An estimated 8.74 million university students are expected to graduate in China this June amid a 16.77 percent year-on-year decrease in Chinese enterprises’ demand for fresh graduates during the first quarter of 2020, Chen said in her article titled “Worsening Unemployment Shaking China’s Efforts to Maintain Stability.”

Six Chinese government departments launched in early May a joint action plan to help new university graduates cope with difficulties in finding jobs, especially at a time when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has forced more businesses to stop hiring, she said.

One of the 10 initiatives in the action plan is to use incentives to recruit more university graduates into the PLA, Chen said.

“The unemployment wave could lure more good-quality university graduates to consider joining the military, thus helping the current plight in which the PLA has difficulty recruiting the specialized personnel it needs,” Chen said.

“We should continue to watch for the results of this recruitment plan and observe whether PLA’s human capital and its battle capabilities improve,” she said.

She did not provide numbers, but according to an article published August 2016 in Foreign Policy, an American news publication focused on global affairs, nearly 150,000 of the PLA’s 400,000 annual recruits were college students and graduates by 2014.

While retention continues to be a challenge and high school graduates still comprise the largest single source of recruits, the PLA is on an increasingly educated trajectory, according to the article.

Meanwhile, Chen warned that China is facing a threat of labor unrest, as the communist country’s true unemployment rate is said to have reached 20 percent, citing an estimate from Chinese economic analyst Li Xunlei (李迅雷), whose report was taken down from his social media account on April 26, the same day he posted it.

Chen said China has recorded at least 168 cases of mass protests in China’s labor sector since January 2020, citing data from the China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based nongovernmental organization.

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