Your country needs you!

KitchenerWe all know this iconic WWI recruiting poster of Lord Kitchener, secretary of state for war, proclaiming ‘Your country needs you’.

China has taken things to a whole new level of slickness with the recent release of a 4.5-minute recruiting video for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The message is uncompromising: ‘With the passion that only comes from the young, with the mettle that only comes from the forge, we maintain combat readiness. We are ready for war.’

Viewable above with English subtitles, the video loyally echoes President Xi Jinping’s policies. ‘The One Belt, One Road ideology presses the rapid development of our nation’s seas and maritime interests. Our land is vast, but we will not yield a single inch of our borders to foreigners.’ There’s a message there for neighbours such as Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Amidst images of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, a territorial marker in the Paracel Islands and a Malaysian offshore oil rig, the video states, ‘No matter which corner of the globe, as long as there is blue water, there we will be on guard…The struggle over maritime rights has not ended – we will not give up even the tiniest bit of our resources.’

SCS Reclamation - small

However, considering that the PLA has not fought a war since its border incursion into Vietnam in 1979, the claim of this propaganda masterpiece from the General Political Department is perhaps suspect: ‘Thousands of sea battles forged us in extraordinarily bloody combat. Unceasing hard work. Unceasing growth,’ it demands from the patriotically inclined.

MS South China Sea - smallThe PLA, for many years, has been seeking to improve the calibre of its recruits. ‘Peasant soldiers’ no longer cut the mustard, since sophisticated new weapons need to be operated in the modern PLA. ‘Here you can develop your glorious talents,’ the video trumpets to those born in the 1990s.

Reflecting popular culture, military recruitment ads in Asia are an interesting phenomenon. The Japan Self-Defence Force (JSDF) enlisted Thunderbirds characters, for example. ‘The campaign has been effective and the collaboration on the Thunderbirds posters really helped to raise the profile of careers in the military,’ said an MoD spokeswoman. A television cartoon show called Girls und Panzer featuring female anime characters studying ‘the way of the tank’ played a part too in rising recruitment for the JSDF.

Taiwan NDP

Taiwan, struggling to attract recruits to its diminishing military, resorted to publishing its annual ‘National Defence Report’ in cartoon format last year to make it more readable for the younger set. Complete with holographic cover, the comic book promotes the country’s defence priorities and equipment.

The PLAN video closes with the patriotic injunction: ‘A strong motherland needs a strong navy. Together let’s realise the dream of the great Chinese rebirth.’

However, you’ll need to think carefully before applying, as China won’t accept any old riffraff. For example, last November a Chinese Coast Guard recruitment website went live with plans to recruit 700 undergraduates this year. Selection criteria include academic performance and physical fitness. Ideological purity is indispensable too, as candidates must be Party or Youth League members, never have studied abroad or have practiced a religion.

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