Murphy's Law: China Copes With The Curse Of Affluence


February 24, 2014:   The Chinese military has noticed that current recruit are larger than those of two decades ago. On average the current recruits are 20mm (.8 inch) taller and 50mm (two inches) larger at the waist. Designers of military equipment have been ordered to adjust the design of vehicles and other equipment to reflect this. This sort of thing is not unique to China. Americans continued to get bigger after World War II and the U.S. Army had to design a new parachute to take into account that the average paratrooper today is heavier than the ones the parachutes were originally designed for. These were introduced in 2006.

This growth is one of the side effects of affluence. Prosperity does many things, one of the more obvious effects is to make children and grandchildren of those who started the economic boom obviously larger. More food, especially more meat, makes children grow larger. This was first observed during the 1980s in Japan where many family photos, which included three generations, revealed dramatic differences in the height of each generation. Those who grew up before World War II were noticeably smaller than those born in the 1950s when the food supply was more regular and more abundant than before the war. The kids born in the 1970s were, as adolescents, larger than their parents and towered over their grandparents. Now it’s happening to China, which experienced food shortages throughout the 20th century. This did not begin to improve until the late 1970s. Now many affluent Chinese have to worry about obesity.

Russia tried to use the different size of troops to their advantage when they designed tanks. During World War II Russian tanks were designed as compactly as possible and to make this work by only shorter troops were selected for tank crews. But after World War II the diet improved considerably over what it had been during World War I and during the revolution and famines that followed in the 1920s and 30s, with still more food shortages during the war. By the 1980s it was no longer possible to find enough small stature troops with sufficient skills to operate tanks. That’s one reason the Russians developed the auto-loader in the 1960s. This device (which was very unreliable and troublesome at first) reduced crew size from four to three.

The Chinese found the Russian tanks and tank designs they adopted for their own use to be quite roomy. No more, and that’s the reason why new Chinese armored vehicle designs appear more “Western”. It’s not just vehicles. All manner of weapons and bits of equipment are designed with a specific range of users in mind. This is what the Chinese noted before it was too late. 


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