Too big for their tanks?

Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers and officers line up in preparation to welcome visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Beijing on 23 October 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Bigger soldiers means equipment upgrades will be needed, researchers say

Much has been made about China's rapidly expanding military budget, particularly with tensions high around the region.

But what about the country's rapidly expanding soldiers?

A new survey revealing changes to the physiques of China's soldiers could mean the country's military faces a potentially costly refit.

Chinese state media - citing a study by the People's Liberation Army - say that the average Chinese soldier is now 2 cm taller and has a waistline 5 cm larger than 20 years ago.

More than 20,000 soldiers from the country's ground forces took part in the survey, which measured 28 features of the human body.

According to news reports, an average soldier could feel "cramped" in some commonly used tanks.

The tanks were apparently designed to accommodate the slimmer soldiers of 30 years ago.

"Equipment must be in the right size for the battlefield, as clothes have to be in everyday life," Ding Songtao, who led the research, was quoted as saying.

Now some news media are saying that there is an "urgent need" for new military gear.

Obesity rates have almost doubled in China over the last 30 years.

People's expanding waistlines are often attributed to diets changing because of rising incomes. More sedentary lifestyles are also a major factor.

Now it appears the military may have to adapt: either it hires shorter soldiers or its tanks size up.