03/24/2009, 00.00
CHINA

Pay raise of 50% for Chinese soldiers

The large increase is believed to be a reward for the army's hard work in 2008 in ensuring security for the Olympics, helping earthquake victims in Sichuan, and handling the protests in Tibet. For the government, it is important to support the morale of the troops, who are increasingly being sent to repress social protests.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The salaries of 2.3 million servicemen and women of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will be raised by 50%, in recognition of their hard work in 2008 and in order to keep their morale high in the face of social protests and the problematic anniversaries of 2009.

The newspaper South China Morning Post cites a retired high official in Shanghai, who says that "all ordinary soldiers and officers will receive 50 percent increases, while colonel-level officials will get 30 percent and generals 20 percent. It means a recruit will receive around 1,000 yuan (about 100 euros) a month of basic salary ... while senior colonels get more than 10,000 yuan and major generals up to 18,000 yuan." He adds that "the money was supposed to be allocated by the beginning of this year. But the appropriation was suspended because the central government was busy collecting funds for Sichuan earthquake relief work."

The armed police, who are part of the army, will also benefit from the increase. It is intended to be a reward for the efficient work of the PLA in 2008, in all of the most serious or important situations: relief efforts in the Sichuan earthquake, security at the Beijing Olympics, and the violent repression of the protests in Tibet.

Salaries for soldiers were doubled in 2006 after remaining stagnant for about 20 years. With this increase, they will be about 20% higher than salaries for civil servants on a similar level.

Analysts observe that the armed police and the soldiers who perform police functions often receive bonuses from the local governments. They believe that in rich areas, like Shanghai and Guangdong, soldiers receive much more than those deployed in Tibet or Qinghai, where today they must confront the protests of Tibetans.

In March, Li Zhaoxing, a spokesman for the National People's Congress, announced that military spending will rise by 14.9% in 2009, with 480.7 billion yuan set aside for weapons, salaries, and defensive infrastructure.

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