Few armed forces have a more Orwellian origin story than the People’s Liberation Army of China. Initially known as the Red Army, it first served under communist dictator Mao Zedong and mostly consisted of “poorly armed but fanatical peasants,” according to ThoughtCo. Far from a liberator, Mao presided over a reign of terror in the 1930s in which upwards of 200,000 people may have been tortured or killed.
Since its inception in 1927, the People’s Liberation Army has served as a communist indoctrination tool, per the Economist. As described in Politics in China since 1949: Legitimizing Authoritarian Rule, “soldiers were encouraged to study Mao’s writings to such a degree that they could recite them verbatim.” Civilians were in turn encouraged to emulate the military, promoting a system of society-wide allegiance and obedience to the leader of a personality cult.
In 2015, the Economist reported that troops in basic training spent 40 percent of their week studying the history of China. In the ensuing years, things have arguably gotten more Orwellian. In 2019, the Associated Press described how China imprisons members of its primarily Muslim Uighur population along with other ethnic minorities in concentration camps. Prisoners are brainwashed, drugged, tortured, and raped. This system was implemented with assistance from military theorists and a state-owned military contractor. If that’s what China does to civilians who don’t conform to cultural norms, what happens to soldiers who try to quit its cultish military?
China will declare war on soldiers who quit the military
Per the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in 2019, China boasted the third biggest military on Earth. The People’s Liberation Army has a budget larger than the GDPs of Greece and New Zealand. It has increasingly sophisticated weapons and a unit of yak-riding soldiers in the mountains. What it does not have is a tolerance for people who leave. In 2019, the People’s Liberation Army English-language website issued a warning in the form of Zhang Moukang,
As CNN details, Zhang was a university student who couldn’t cope with life in China’s military. As punishment the government chose to make his civilian life a nightmare. Authorities imposed a two-year ban that bars Zhang from traveling on planes, trains, and buses throughout the country, buying or receiving insurance, enrolling in school, opening a business, and purchasing real estate. He received a lifetime ban on holding a government office. Furthermore, Zhang will be systematically humiliated by having his fate “published to the society via networks, television, newspapers and social media.” All because he asked to be liberated from the People’s Liberation Army.
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