Can Women Serve In The Chinese Army


There has been a long-standing debate about the role of women in the Chinese Army. Despite the fact that women are eligible to sign up and volunteer for active duty, there are certain restrictions they must adhere to. In light of the prevalent sexism and gender inequality in the Chinese Army, it is important to examine whether women can truly sustain active roles or if they are bound to be excluded. This article seeks to examine the current state of affairs for women in the Chinese Army, with relevant data and perspectives from experts. It is important to discuss the implications of furthering gender roles in the Army, and to look at the long-term benefits for both the Chinese Army and its female volunteers.

Background Information

Before delving into the specifics of women serving in the Chinese Army, it is important to understand the current state of affairs in the Chinese military. It is estimated that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) boasts upwards of 2.3 million personnel. This includes an approximated 420,000 female volunteers, making up 18% of the total force. China’s military is gender-blind when it comes to conscription: male service members are required to serve in the PLA for a minimum of two years, while women are eligible to sign up for four-year contracts.
Unfortunately, despite the legal framework for women’s participation, opportunities for women are often times marginalised by the biased attitudes of senior officers and other commanding roles. Women are most likely to be stationed in either medical roles or non-combat positions due to the traditional gender roles they are expected to adhere to. Even though women are fit to meet the same physical and mental standards as their male counterparts, there exists an invisible constraint prohibiting them from taking on active combat roles. One of the main impediments women face is the lack of comprehensive training and instruction, which means that even if women are eligible for combat roles, they often lack the experience and proficiency to operate the advanced machinery and military equipment.

Perspectives from Experts

Some experts are of the opinion that allowing women to serve in the Chinese Army would open up fresh perspectives, provide new insight on tactics and operations, and further gender equality in the military. This in turn leads to more humane and effective practices in war due to a broader set of skills and talents being brought to the table. Women are physically and mentally capable of performing the same duties as their male counterparts and their presence could help to push the PLA towards a more modernised and progressive organisation.
However, not all experts agree with these sentiments. Some contend that the integration of women into the PLA could severely disrupt the military’s long-standing system of leadership, operations, and morale. The core of the PLA is still run by a patriarchal structure, and if women are allowed more prominent roles, many fear management roles could be filled without the proper experience.

Analysis and Insights

Considering the debate and perspectives from both supporters and opposers of female participation in the PLA, it is clear that there must be a measure of reform if any major changes are to be seen. There are definitely powerful arguments on both sides, so it is important to seek a middle ground that can help the PLA achieve a balance between tradition and modernity.
The key lies in the introduction of proper training programmes and educational initiatives, as this will give women the opportunity to gain experience and the knowledge required for higher-ranking roles. Improving access to professional development opportunities and providing true gender equality in recruitment and advancement policies are also essential components in levelling the playing field. Ultimately, these measures could help to further the PLA’s interests while progressively acknowledging the value of female service members.

Economic Implications

The recruitment of female service members could provide economic benefits to both the PLA and its volunteers. Not only would more women joining the PLA mean increased military support, it would also potentially increase wages and stimulate the Chinese economy. Female service members could benefit from improved job security, higher wages, better working conditions, and greater career opportunities. This could be achieved by offering the same positions and training opportunities as men, and providing promotions and compensation that take into account the skills, talents, and specialised abilities of the women serving.
The PLA could furthermore incentivise the recruitment and retention of female soldiers by providing meaningful career paths. Women could be given the same kind of support and encouragement as their male colleagues, creating a merit based and inclusive culture. This could further create a sense of camaraderie and community, leading to increased morale and commitment.

Mental Health Implications

Despite the physical and economic benefits that could come with more female involvement in the PLA, it would be remiss to overlook the potential detriment to the mental health of its service members. Gender discrimination and stereotyping have the potential to create an oppressive environment that can feel unbearable to its female volunteers. The emphasis of gender roles can undermine morale and make many female service members feel like they must adhere to strict and outdated standards.
Furthermore, the pressure to succeed can lead to a sense of tension and difficulty meeting expectations. The psychological training that goes into preparing for battle should be gender-neutral and should not focus on a specific set of behaviours or characteristics. Without proper mental health support, female service members could stand to suffer serious emotional trauma and long-lasting psychological effects.

Social Implications

The social awareness of female roles in the military also needs to change. In Chinese society, women are still stigmatised for pursuing careers that are traditionally deemed as “male-only”, leading to potential judgement and exclusion from traditional Chinese households. This makes it difficult for women to enlist in the PLA and receive support from friends and families alike. It is still widely considered the role of women to take on domestic and caretaking duties, and so an active service role can often times be seen as an act of rebellion.
Encouraging more open conversations and opinions in public discourse can help to prevent the marginalisation of women in the PLA. With the right educational programmes and a more progressive attitude in society, such stigmas can be eradicated and more women can ultimately realise their ambitions in the Armed Forces.

The Role of Technology

In the era of advanced technologies, the use of robotics and machine intelligence has opened up new avenues for women participating in the PLA. Automation can help to free up personnel from the more physically demanding and hazardous duties, creating more opportunities for female service members. For instance, robots can reduce the need for field operations and security patrols, minimising the risk of death or injury.
The PLA can similarly exploit the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing to develop strategies and strategies for operations. By creating automated systems for carrying out tasks, the PLA can reduce the burden on active service members. In addition, the use of robotics and wearables can help to monitor the well-being of the service members and detect potential threats before they arise.

Policies and Structural Reform

In order for women to achieve true parity in the PLA, the existing policies and organisational structures need to be amended. At the moment, there is no comprehensive guideline or regulation in place to provide a framework for gender equality. This lack of regulation leaves women open to being marginalised unfairly, with no legal remedy.
Formulating a set of practices and regulations that enforces affirmative action and equal representation could help resolve this issue. This includes enacting measures to promote gender diversity, such as creating committees that explore implementation strategies and establish check and balance systems for monitoring discrimination. Furthermore, the implementation of gender quotas to ensure a certain minimum of representation in all ranks and fields of the PLA could help to create greater equality and diversity.


The debate over whether women should serve in the Chinese Army has been ongoing for decades. There are powerful arguments from both sides and a middle ground must be sought to help the PLA achieve a balance between tradition and modernity. Keeping in mind the potential for economic, social and mental health implications, it is important to put into place policies and practices that encourage the recruitment and retention of female service members. With the right educational opportunities and a more progressive attitude in society, women can realise their ambitions in the Armed Forces and aid in the PLA’s progression.

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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