Can Foreigners Join The Chinese Army


The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the world’s largest military force by personnel. With approximately 2.3 million members, the PLA’s mission is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China. People from all of China’s 56 ethnic groups are eligible to join the PLA, but what about foreigners who aren’t citizens of the People’s Republic of China? In other words, can foreigners join the Chinese Army?

Official Policies

The Chinese government has strict policies and regulations in regards to foreign citizens joining the military. According to the PLA General Political Department: “Foreign nationals who satisfy the conditions of physical and professional health set by the ministry of defense, non-Chinese citizens may sign up for military service with the military.” Therefore, foreign nationals may enlist in the PLA, but they must pass the stringent physical and mental health requirements first.

Military Entry Requirements

The recruitment requirements for foreigners are similar to those of Chinese citizens. Foreigners interested in joining the Chinese Army must be healthy and have a valid foreign passport. There is an upper age limit for applicants, varying between 40 and 45 depending on the branch of the service. Applicants also need a high school diploma or equivalent and must pass an English proficiency test. Generally, foreign citizens need to live in China for at least five years before applying for the military.

Influence of Foreigners in the PLA

In the past, there have been foreign nationals who have served in the PLA. Most foreign nationals who join the army come from neighboring countries such as Myanmar, Pakistan, and North Korea. These foreign nationals are often given honorary positions, such as decorations, or serve as interpreters or advisors. However, it should be noted that the PLA has a strict policy against espionage and foreign nationals caught in the act of espionage are sentenced to the death penalty.

Benefits of Joining the PLA

Foreign nationals who join the PLA are entitled to the same pay and benefits as Chinese nationals. They are also eligible for military benefits, such as free healthcare and housing, and if they serve for more than three years, they may receive Chinese citizenship. People who join the PLA are also likely to gain valuable skills, knowledge and experience, which will serve them well after they have completed their term of service.

Risks and Challenges of Joining the PLA

The most obvious and significant risk is that of being put in harm’s way. Foreign nationals should also consider the cultural differences and the language barrier, as communication with the other members of the PLA might be difficult. Privacy is also likely to be an issue, as all PLA members are subject to strict rules and regulations which are enforced by the Chinese government.


The decision to join the PLA should not be taken lightly and should be based on careful weighing of the pros and cons of the situation. Foreign nationals should also consider their goals and ambitions and whether enlisting in the PLA will help them reach their objectives. Ultimately, joining the PLA is a personal decision and people should evaluate the risks and rewards carefully before making their decision.

Volunteering Opportunities

One way that foreign nationals can be part of the Chinese Army without having to make a long-term commitment is to volunteer. There are many ways that volunteers can be of service to the PLA, such as offering language skills, technical and medical support, or helping with humanitarian missions during disaster relief efforts. Volunteers can also be found doing community service, helping out with logistics and administrative duties.

International Cooperation

The PLA has undertaken various projects with international partners in recent years, particularly countries neighbouring China such as Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. These partnerships have focused on promoting joint training, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance. Foreign nationals may have the opportunity to participate in these projects and work alongside Chinese military personnel.

Cultural Exchange

The PLA also offers cultural exchange opportunities for foreign nationals. This involves foreign nationals teaching about their homeland and culture, as well as learning about the culture of the PLA. These exchanges are designed to foster better cultural understanding and are an excellent way for foreign military personnel to learn more about the PLA and its members.

Training and Education

Foreign nationals who join the PLA will receive the same training and education as their Chinese counterparts. This includes basic military training, technological awareness and cultural understanding. It is important to note that the PLA provides language support, so even if foreign nationals do not speak Chinese when they join the military, they will be able to learn and become proficient in Mandarin.

Letha Wimmer is a military expert with more than a decade of direct experience in the U.S. Army and National Guard. She specializes in researching and writing about the world's armies and their capabilities, equipment, capabilities, strategies, organizations, and operations. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation from Middle Tennessee State University as well as an Aerial Firefighting Certificate and numerous other advanced aviation certifications. She also enjoys traveling to distant lands to gain firsthand knowledge about their military forces and has written extensively for various websites on the subject.

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