Beijing: China has stepped up the fitness campaign for its 2.3 million-strong army, linking promotions of the personnel in the world's largest military to their health conditions.
People's Liberation Army (PLA) members have been reminded to stay in shape or else they will lose out on promotions.
"Soldiers are easily gaining weight in peacetime," said Li Daguang, an expert with the National Defence University.
"It has been more than 30 years since the Chinese army fought in a war" state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Li said that with improved living conditions, changing lifestyles and dietary structure, soldiers live comfortably and are putting on weight.
"Being overweight will not only harm soldiers' image, but also affect their performance on the battlefield and the troop's overall combat power," he said.
The PLA has set compulsive standards for soldiers' weight and vowed to pay more attention to military fitness training, which aims to build a stronger force, according to new guidelines.
"Physical training should be linked to personnel management," the guideline said, referring to promotions or demotions.
Military physical training is "a basic way of enhancing soldiers and officers' physical and mental quality" and helps cultivate combat power, it said, calling for innovative training methods and outlining a distinctive military training system.
"It is strength but not weight, muscle not fat that is to be compared on the future war field," said PLA Major General Luo Yuan.
The guideline reflects the principle of running the army strictly, Luo said, adding it is an international convention to quantify soldiers' weight standards.
Senior Colonel Zhang Junshe, a researcher with the PLA's Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the weight problem is even bigger for those working indoors.
"They are older than front-line soldiers and often work overtime and do little sport, especially military computer technicians whose average weight surpasses standards," said Zhang.
The PLA did not disclose new weight standards, but those for soldiers and administrative officers should differ.
Chinese people often joke about big bellied PLA generals and policemen, questioning their ability of fighting a real war on the battlefield, according to the report.
Some of them are out of shape due to excessive banquet drinking and other unhealthy lifestyles, which can be linked to corruption.
However, since the Communist Party of China's frugality campaign started in late 2012, banquet drinking has dropped.
Observers say the PLA weight standards will also make promotions more transparent, as graft-busters found bribing for promotions in the military is common, it said.