Not taking illiterate recruits is a pretty standard practice by now, but the current generation of generals have noted that professional forces in the West, or high-tech nations like Japan and Taiwan, test recruits for psychological suitability as well. China has more potential conscripts than it needs, and psychological screening appears to be an excellent way to determine who goes, and who does not. While many young Chinese, with good economic prospects, would prefer to skip military service, many do not have jobs or prospects, and see military service as a way to see if they might like to make the military a career. Nearly two-thirds of military personnel are making a career of it, and most of them got started as conscripts. But with all the technology, new tactics and techniques, and pressures of dealing with it all, psychological testing makes a lot of sense. Officer candidates are also being checked for drug use, and erratic behavior in general is not tolerated as much as it once was.
China is trying to improve the quality of its military personnel, and it's going to do this with more tests. Currently, there are some two million troops on active duty. About 35 percent of them are conscripts, and China believes it can afford to be picky. That's because the military only needs about half of the 800,000 males to become eligible for the draft each year. Since over 80 percent of these 18 year olds are literate, China is, for the first time, having all potential conscripts take a psychological test. Over the last half century, the Chinese military has introduced several tests for new recruits. But not everyone took all the tests, because half a century ago, most of the potential recruits were illiterate. That has changed, and now, all recruits take tests, and to this is being added a psychological test.