Wake up, America. Your global military dominance is on the decline, challenged ever more by a rising China. The People’s Republic now has hallmark American military technologies from stealth jets to armed drones. But now they’re eroding our lead in another area: fat people.
The state-controlled China Daily reported Wednesday that China’s National People’s Congress is loosening the standards for overweight recruits in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). China’s wanna-be soldiers can now super-size that order of szechuan beef without fear of discrimination as long they don’t tip the scales further than 25 percent of the normal weight requirements — a 5 percent uptick from last year.
The PLA’s greater tolerance for the love-handled likely stems from the necessity of recruiting within an ever wealthier — and chubbier — China. Its rapidly growing economy has birthed a new middle class. But as the poet says, mo’ money, mo’ problems. The country’s appetite has expanded with its wallet. One quarter of China’s population is now either overweight or obese, stuffing their faces with more of previously less-affordable dishes like meat. It’s a particular problem among school kids, the rising generation of potential army recruits. In Shanghai alone, obesity in elementary school children has gone up 25 percent over the past 10 years. McDonald’s franchises in China, it seems, are America’s secret weapon.
In that sense, the U.S. military rivalry with China can be seen as almost literally as a global clash of (rotund) giants. After all, they’re simply catching up to the our own military’s challenges with weight. Today, 27 percent of America’s young people between 17 and 24 are obese — entirely too fat to serve in the armed forces. That’s put American military recruiters in a bind. In 2009, the Army had to loosen up its weight requirements and put new flabby recruits on a weight-loss program in order to deal with the influx of the overweight.
Weight isn’t the only standard the PLA is bending on. The National People’s Congress has taken an opposite tack from the U.S. Army when it comes to tattoos. Whereas the U.S. Army is cracking down on neck ink, the PLA is now letting in more tatted troops. Chinese recruits can have face and neck tattoos as long as they keep them smaller than two centimeters.
So will a tattooed, plus-sized PLA be any less daunting of a threat to the Sino-panic crowd? Of course not. There’s just more of the Chinese military to fear now.