Morale: Amuse Them Or Lose Them

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June 10,2008: China's recent announcement that it would withdraw most of the 1,300 ballistic missiles stationed near the coast opposite Taiwan, was largely touted as an effort to improve relations between the two nations (despite the fact that China considers Taiwan a wayward, and heavily armed, province, not a nation). But the real reason, or a bonus reason, is that the troops stationed down there are not happy, and many are not staying in the military. This is a major problem.

It works like this. The Chinese military has to compete with civilian firms for people with technical training. Missile units have lots of techies, from the vehicle mechanics (for the large wheeled transporter/launcher vehicles) to electronics technicians (to maintain everything from radios to missile guidance systems). Most of the officers must have a technical background as well. The missile units stationed along the coast are isolated and far from a major city. The isolation is intentional, since you want to spread the missile units out, to make them less vulnerable targets to enemy air strikes. But this means the troops are cut off from all the goodies (entertainment, shopping, young women) they like to have when they are off duty.

The government has tried to cope with this by providing high quality accommodations. The troops barracks are of recent, and good quality, construction. Officers, and their families, are in Western style housing, newly built and well equipped. But it's the isolation that has the troops grumbling, and leaving for higher pay and a better lifestyle in the civilian life. Even (much) higher military pay would be no substitute for the amenities of urban life. The government knows this, because they have given officers and key enlisted personnel large raises recently, and this didn't help in all situations.

So most of these missile units will be moved closer to major metropolitan areas. The old bases can be sold to businesses, probably at a nice profit, for industrial use. Given the corruption that is still rampant in the military, many officers will be able to make nice additions to their retirement funds, or get themselves a mistress, once this is all over.

 


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