The Chinese military said a rising tide of potential recruits are unfit to join the largest army in the world – blaming junk food, smartphones and excessive masturbation.
High failure rates for potential recruits has prompted concerns that there may soon be too few fit youths to fill the ranks of an army that stands at 2.3 million soldiers.
The People's Liberation Army Daily, the state-run military newspaper, said at the weekend that 57% of the applicants who applied to join the army in one unnamed city this year failed the physical – with one in five being simply too fat.
The report added that a number of potential recruits showed medical indications of liver and kidney problems, caused by too many of sugary soft drinks, alcohol and snack foods such as crackers.
It added that around 8% of male applicants had larger-than-normal testicular veins caused by frequent masturbation, a condition that could be made worse by diving, parachuting or enduring a big temperature change.
A number of recruits also fell short on eyesight and weight standards, with the report blaming an overuse of smartphones and unhealthy diets.
The report was published on the online WeChat section of the newspaper, with the title admitting the post "spurred heated online discussion about the quality of young recruits".
One reply read: "A war zone does not need weak 'pretty boys'. Only strong young men can shoulder the responsibility of protecting the nation."
The findings echo statistics collated by education authorities, which have said that the country's youth are becoming unhealthy, said The Times. Across the country there has been an alarming increase in the number of people in their twenties collapsing during moderate exercise.
In 2012 major-general Luo Yuan, a leading figure in the People's Liberation Army, questioned the character and fitness of new recruits. "With such a lack of character and determination and such physical weakness, how can they shoulder the heavy responsibility?" the major-general asked.