When you walk through a Chinese university at the beginning of a semester, you might get the feeling you accidentally stumbled right into a military base of the People`s Liberation Army (PLA):
The first couple of weeks you encounter hundreds of recruits... ehm, freshmen in camouflage uniforms exercising and parading daily on the university´s biggest square, getting basic military training. For every university freshman, male or female, allover the country, this one month basic training is mandatory.
While this behavior might seem a little militaristic, at least there`s no other compulsary military service in China, and somehow a sense of patriotism, uniformity, discipline and obediance for China has to be brought to these young minds. This still is an authoritarian single party rule here. So the physical training is flanked by seminars and classes about Marxism, Maoism, patriotism, party politics, and so on. Some of these classes have to be attended throughout the whole university life. Recently some of my third year students had to write a paper about Marxism.
Another reason is presenting the PLA as an excellent employer for high potentials - well, you can`t blame China for that, that`s what every government is trying to do. Not with the PLA, of course, but with their own armies :-)
Another reason I heard lies within the one child policy. As every family is only allowed one child and this child especially in wealthier families might get spoiled by getting everything it wants when it wants it (those kids are called "little princes/princesses"), these trainings are kind of a counter measure conducted by schools and universities to show the spoiled brats they`re not that special and just one amongst many.
Anyhow, most students endure this either half-hearted or try to make the best out of it having fun during the group competitions and getting to know their new fellow students better - that that`s the easisest way to get through with mandatory stuff they already learned a long time ago, as you don`t just in university start with mobilizations like this.
In winter, however, this group/unit acting comes in handy. After heavy snow falls the "student troops" can quickly be mobilized for snow and ice clearance:
So thanks dear PLA basic military training for making the streets safer in winter......