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Hong Kong (CNN) - With about 2 million people in China's armed forces, one might think that the story of a single individual who could not stand the rigors of military life would not justify national attention.
But that was not the case last week for Zhang Moukang, a university student from the Chinese province of Hainan.
A story published on the English website of the People's Liberation Army (EPL) details the punishment imposed on Zhang after he told the EPL that he no longer wanted to remain in the body.
How bad will it be for Zhang?
It faces a total of eight sanctions that include a two-year ban on travel abroad; travel within China by airplanes, long-distance trains or buses; buy real estate; get loans or insurance; open a business, and enroll or study in college or high school.
Zhang, whose age was not informed, will not be allowed to obtain a government job for life, even as a temporary worker. And that includes any government company in a country where a large part of the industry is state.
There will also be a financial cost: a fine of $ 4,000 plus reimbursement to the army of $ 3,750 for costs incurred during his short time as a soldier, including “a political exam,” his medical exam, travel and living expenses, as well as bedding and clothing.
Zhang will also face public shame: his actions and punishments will be "published to society through networks, television, newspapers and social networks."
Undoubtedly, a story on the English website of the PLA that is seen internationally marks that box.
“Make an example of him”
Zhang's case may be weird, but it's not unique.
A CNN search in Chinese media found at least a few dozen cases of former soldiers who were identified and embarrassed in recent years, and the punishments are prescribed in Chinese law.
Beijing could be using the case to “make an example of it and publicize it in a way that reaches a wider society,” said Adam Ni, co-editor of the China Neican and China researcher at the Department of Security and Criminology Studies at the University Macquarie in Australia.
Nor did he add that “this is an example of some of the tensions that PLA faces. On the one hand you need to project an image, a good image, and on the other hand you have to deter what you consider bad behavior and insubordination. ”
Chinese military service is technically based on mandatory military service, but it is a requirement that has rarely been applied in recent years, as many volunteers have stepped forward to search for places in the county's rapidly modernizing forces, they say The experts.
That modernization requires fewer recruits, but better educated. Therefore, the force has been reduced, emphasizing technically competent volunteers on recruits who tend to come from poorer areas with less education.
And that comes with its own set of problems.
In its 2019 Chinese Power Report, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. UU. observe a challenging trend facing the EPL.
"Military service will likely remain a less attractive career option if China's economy remains healthy," he says. "Although young Chinese are still interested in the professional field, interest is not widespread."
The agency's report notes that Beijing wants to "cultivate new military personnel to retain talent and develop personnel that can meet the demands of modern war data."
A report by the state-run Xinhua news agency in July said the EPL preferred to recruit university students and graduates.
But Ni says that the difficulties of military life affected even the most educated recruits.
"I think it's a rather difficult environment, potentially away from family and friends, that performs a variety of jobs that are at least potentially physically demanding, if not dangerous."
For most younger Chinese, "the EPL would not be a good place to work," he said.
And Zhang apparently agreed.
The modern Chinese army was not the life he wanted, according to the China Military Online report.
After joining the army in September, he announced his intention to resign a month later and, at the end of November, he was expelled from the EPL.
"Zhang Moukang has not been able to adapt to military life for fear of difficulties and fatigue," the report said. "Despite the patient exhortation of the troops, he still persisted in abandoning."