The PLA General Hospital in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua via DFIC

The Chinese military has embarked on an aggressive drive to overhaul a raft of medical institutes nationwide to rein in profit-generating businesses. Researchers and doctors have been told to use their expertise to make soldiers fitter and stronger.

The force’s three branches will have their own dedicated medical universities and academies after sweeping mergers and consolidation.

“After this, respective universities and institutes serving the ground force, navy and air force will be the core of the People’s Liberation Army’s education and medical research system, supplemented by colleges specializing in various disciplines and civil-military integrated education,” said Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China’s defense ministry.

The PLA used to maintain a byzantine hierarchy of medical schools, labs and hospitals, with some granted quasi-ministerial administrative status as well as far-reaching powers and autonomy over their purse strings.

Many of these universities and hospitals have been raking in money, capitalizing on their military titles as patients flock to seek treatment and doctors and professors sell their research outcomes to the highest bidder.

But all PLA medical universities and hospitals must optimize their resources and shift their focus back to the battlefield as their military nature demands, a PLA Daily op-ed said.

The paper has also revealed a list of key frontiers the PLA wants its army of doctors and researchers to focus on – such as genomic science, infection and immunology, stem cell and regenerative medicine, dietary nutrition, battlefield first aid, prevention of injuries and psychological counselling.