By Senior Colonel Dai Xu, professor at the PLA National Defense University
According to a recent media report in the UK, in a study involving about 4,700 primary and junior middle school students in Guangzhou, a city located in southern China, that 12% of students from Grade One in primary schools were found to be suffering from myopia. This number shockingly goes up to 67% among students of Grade One in junior middle schools.
My colleague in charge of the PLA Air Force pilot recruitment sector and I visited a senior middle school in South China three years ago to study the vision problems of students. Based on our investigation, we found that only 8 – 10 students in a class of 40 students did not wear glasses, and there was a high rate of myopia of about 80%.
According to my colleague, some students without glasses might be wearing contact lenses. Combined with other indexes, in a senior middle school with almost 10,000 students, it was difficult to select a student who could qualify to be trained to become a pilot.
I was shocked. Was this the real condition of our military talent reserves supporting our modern and powerful Air Force? Based on later investigations, I found that this was a universal result. Undoubtedly, a high rate of myopia has already greatly influenced national defense security.
Several schools in China including military academies do not include myopia in the physical ability test standards, and this reflects general indifference to the problem of myopia in the whole society.
It is now rare to conduct modern warfare only by virtue of physical strength in field operations. However, physical fitness is still an important foundation, the Air Force especially, which has extremely strict requirements for vision.
As a country having a large population, China is theoretically expected to have a large number of human resources for troops. However, in fact, China’s level of human resources for troops lies in the mid-range due to the high rate of myopia.
In addition, due to some other reasons, China’s huge population base does not result in a country with abundant military human resources.
“Insufficient outdoor activity” is the reason for sharp increase in the rate of myopia among children, and this fact has been recognized in China and overseas. Some research institutions attribute it to the popularization of electronic products and this could be one of the reasons.
However, European and American countries as well as Japan have a longer history of electronic product usage, but China ranks first in terms of myopia among teenagers.
Obviously, there is a deeper reason as well. For instance, it could also be due to overuse of eyes, which is related to heavy learning burdens that primary and middle school students carry.
Practical education in China focuses more on “academic scores” but not “moral scores” or “physical ability scores”. In addition, with regard to academic scores, the focus is primarily on reading textbooks.
The high rate of myopia in Chinese students is a reflection not only on the problem of talent reserves for our PLA Air Force’s pilots, but also on the overall health of Chinese teenagers.
China is growing increasingly strong, yet China needs to pay more attention to both physical and spiritual qualities.