China's Army Turns to Rap, Hip-Hop in Bid to Boost PLA Recruitment

Image: A group of special paramilitary policemen attend a training session in Chuzhou
A group of special paramilitary policemen attend a training session in Chuzhou, Anhui Province, China, March 30, 2016.Reuters file

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By Eric Baculinao

BEIJING — China is hoping that rap and rhymes will help recruit more young men to the world’s largest standing army.

A hip-hop beat backs lyrics like "Kill! Kill! Kill" in an action-packed video released by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). The slick production has racked up nearly 100,000 comments on China's Twitter-like service, Weibo, since being posted on the army newspaper’s website Thursday.

The lyrics “hide neither combativeness nor a desire to fight,” China Daily newspaper noted dryly in a story on the piece on Tuesday.

The video does not shy away from the gruesome, and starts with references to being shot in the chest.

“Roar with animal spirit, from the center to the border. Let’s go to war, let’s fight to win!” a staccato voice says on the track, spitting rhymes punctuated by baritone roars and cheers.

Images of China’s most modern weaponry — such as aircraft carriers, ballistic missiles, stealth jet fighters and spaceships — run with the tough talk, along with plenty of battle scenes and a plethora of soldiers, marines and airmen.

The idea is to show “the PLA as modernized as the United States military,” the China Daily quoted a military spokesperson as saying, adding that young people are avoiding service in the country's 2.3-million-strong military.

While officials will not discuss recruitment numbers or trends, the lure of capitalism may be cutting into the PLA's appeal. The military offers a starting salary of around $450 a month, according to the Liberation Army Daily — the official newspaper for the army. That is far below the average urban worker’s salary of nearly $700, according to Beijing Times newspaper.

China's one-child policy — which began to be phased out in 2015 — also has been blamed for the recruitment crunch, as the single-child generation had more career choices. In 2011, the PLA raised the maximum age for new recruits from 22 to 24.

Netizens of China have largely saluted the new video, with many saying it is about time China projected this sort of power and vigor.

“This is the style of a great power, I like it!” said one.

Another disagreed.

“We want peace, not war! Don’t promote violence,” the user said.

Julia Zhou contributed.