I've been looking at an Article from Business Insider with the title "If you leave the Chinese military, the government can make your life a living hell" which states

The official news website of China’s People’s Liberation Army recently posted a story about a new recruit who was penalized for quitting the military. According to the report, the new recruit was then hit with eight punishments ranging from a two-year ban on travel to more than $7,000 in fines and reimbursements. Here all eight of the punishments:

"A two-year ban on foreign and domestic travel, buying real estate, going to college, and starting a business. A lifetime ban on working for the government, even as a temporary staffer. This is a big deal since China’s communist government means that many jobs are government jobs. His military status will be changed to „rejection of military service.“ A $4,000 fine for leaving the military, in addition to paying back the government for the costs they incurred taking him on as a soldier and housing him, which amounts to $3,750. A cancellation of his preferential treatment as a serviceman. A public shaming via TV, newspaper, and social media reports."

Why is leaving the Chinese Army punishable in Chinese society and which law enforces such actions and when is one allowed to leave the Army? You can't stay in the military forever!

  • 4
    Maybe these citation is about evading on-duty army service - which is widespread in the world. If it is so, then it's closer to, for example, not paying taxes Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:19
  • 19
    At least in that article, the recruit in question dropped out 2 months after enlisting so it seems more like punishment for breaking their enlistment contract and going AWOL. In the US, going AWOL can be punished by forfeiture of all pay and up to 18 months in jail. It seems to me like a Chinese take on that kind of punishment – presumably he wouldn't have been punished if he was honorably discharged after his term of service was over
    – divibisan
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:29
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    Some of the punishments sound exactly like what would happen in the US if someone quits the military
    – Joe W
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:31
  • 1
    I gave you an answer just now, but I would suggest you still change the question a bit :-P It's a little vague. I think I understand what you mean - but as other's have said - quitting most armies is punishable. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 18:28
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    @divibisan Indeed. There isn't any military organization that would survive for long if it allowed members to quit any time they wanted to. "Oh, you want me and my friends here to try stopping those approaching tanks? Nah, I quit."
    – Just Me
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 19:45

2 Answers 2


China is not doing anything different than almost every other country in the world here.

The ultimate responsibility of any military organization of a sovereign state is to conduct warfare as directed by that state.

That's a dangerous job, especially for the front-line soldiers. Therefore, just about all military organizations will have severe penalties for members that do not serve as required by their state. Those penalties extend all the way up to summary execution in many places - it's not rare at all that soldiers must serve as directed or their superiors have the right to shoot them immediately.

The US has quite a list of crimes where the penalty for service members includes execution.

The UK has quite a few offenses where the punishment can be up to life in prison.

To put China's treatment here in perspective, countries exist that perform mass executions of mere civilians just for trying to leave the country.

  • This is the correct answer. You might not like this policy, but it has nothing to do with communism or authoritarianism per se. Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 11:18

Since the media is heavily controlled by the government - we can't really be sure at what point he was in his training, or indeed any of the facts of the case (at least not without a forensic analysis of Weibo). In any case, that it is sort of missing the point.

This whole episode wasn't so much about the punishment, as about propaganda.

The penal system in China is very efficient, in the sense that they rely on a lot of self-control. To achieve that self-control, the police/court/government (separation of the powers is limited) just love to make examples out of people. They especially like to use these somewhat bizarre methods - because it kills two birds with one stone:

  1. It resonates with people: they talk about it (yes Chinese also find it a bit strange), they internalize it, and fear the same themselves.
  2. It makes it clear that the government have absolute power. Everything you have, material or otherwise, is a gift from the C.C.P., and they always have the option of simply taking it back.

One might ask, why are they doing this now? The Chinese army is huge, and relies very heavily on less affluent citizens (as do most armies) to maintain that size. To do that when average incomes are rising fast, presents a challenge - other jobs are available which pay a lot more (that's partly why servicemen get "preferential treatment" - which amounts to skipping the queue at the airport). The government is very aware of this, and are trying to nip in the bud any early signs of dissatisfaction. Like pretty much everything else going on in China right now - it's part of a new nationalistic drive called "The Chinese Dream".

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