China military
A poll indicates most Chinese citizens believe their country will be at war with Japan in coming years. Getty Images

Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has expanded its international military presence, increased its annual defense budget and upgraded its technological capabilities. Now, the country’s Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Education are ramping up recruitment efforts for its already 4.6 million-strong armed forces, including active reserves.

Despite the fact China already has the world’s largest military force in terms of manpower, the nation’s defense and education ministries announced Wednesday the rollout of new incentives to encourage college students to enlist. They will be making a concerted push to attract these students at the very beginning of their academic careers -- starting with the inclusion of brochures on the benefits of military enlistment in college-admission packages sent out in 2015.

The defense ministry also launched a conscription website where potential recruits can easily access online applications.

Among the new incentives, one would allow demobilized college-student soldiers pursuing master’s degrees to be exempt from taking postgraduate school entrance exams, and another would loosen the restrictions on shifting to other majors when such soldiers seeking bachelor’s degrees resume their studies.

College-enrolled recruits also would eligible for revised physical-examination standards that would “create more favorable and convenient conditions” for qualified applicants.

The push for better-educated personnel fits into a larger military expansion and overhaul, especially in terms of noncombat military roles, where advanced degrees would be helpful prerequisites.

The significant modernization of China’s military arsenal and associated equipment has created a demand for people with educations adaptable to a diverse set of new weaponry. Military officers in the country have acknowledged in the past that a dearth of highly educated personnel who can operate new weapons systems was a shortcoming of the Chinese Navy, according to a report by the Jamestown Foundation, an institute for research and analysis in Washington. In 2011, Xia Ping, the head of the navy’s personnel department, said it was seeking to recruit more than 2,000 people with doctorates over the next five years to handle technically advanced marine weaponry.

Cyberwarfare has also become increasingly important in terms of China’s national security, as the country allocates more resources to strong intelligence-gathering capabilities and network protection. China publicly acknowledged this year the existence of the nation’s long-suspected cyberwarfare unit in the latest edition of the publication “Science of Military Strategy,” which is produced by the People’s Liberation Army. Joe McReynolds, a research analyst at Defense Group Inc.’s Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, told the Daily Beast that it marked “the first time they’ve come out and said, ‘Yes, we do in fact have network attack forces, and we have teams on both the military and civilian-government sides.’”

According to a Free Beacon report last month, developing cyberintelligence programs has become a new “long-term, large-scale” spending priority for the China’s PLA, which dovetails nicely with the country’s recently announced initiatives in military recruitment.