Soldiers to present China’s flag ‘raised on Pangong Lake’ during nationwide tour
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has begun a domestic campaign ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s July 1 centenary in which it is highlighting last year’s actions of its border defence troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), specifically in Pangong Lake, as part of a broader push to underline the military’s firm support to President Xi Jinping.
Under the campaign, two groups of 8 “youth role models”, a mix of military and students, are visiting colleges and universities across China. The group is being organised by the Central Military Commission’s Political Work Department and the Party’s Youth League. The group includes “elite and skilled” PLA soldiers, including some stationed in units along the LAC, along with “anti-epidemic pioneers, elite female coastguards and scientists dedicated to polar region research”, the military said.
As part of the campaign, the soldiers are presenting China’s national flag “once raised on Pangong Lake”, a key site of tensions in 2020, at various military units and educational institutions as they tour the country.
The aim is “to learn and internalise the spirit of President Xi’s important speech delivered during his recent visit to Tsinghua University and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China,” the PLA said. Mr. Xi had, in his speech, “encouraged young people to rise up to the mission of national rejuvenation”.
The campaign appears aimed at delivering a two-fold message targeted more at a domestic audience than abroad: to declare the military’s unequivocal support to Mr. Xi, and to also send a message of patriotism ahead of the July 1 anniversary. The PLA is unique among militaries in serving, first and foremost, a political party and not a state, and political education is a key part of military training in China.
The PLA’s actions during the LAC tensions of 2020 appear to be figuring prominently in the campaign. Four service members of “the border defence troops in the Karakoram went to visit several military or civilian units to share their stories of guarding the border and defending the motherland,” PLA spokesperson and Senior Colonel Tan Kefei said at his monthly briefing late last month, announcing the campaign.
An “emphasis of combat readiness” was part of the message. “One group of the role models went to the coastal regions in southeast China, and the other group went to the Gobi Desert in northwest China, where they boarded fighting vehicles and warships, visited squads and border sentry posts,” he said. “They went to combat positions and training grounds, where they joined the service members in training and guard duty, providing professional knowledge counselling and skill training to soldiers. The Karakoram border defence troops presented the Chinese national flag once raised on the Pangong Lake to the National Flag Guards, a way of conveying their enthusiasm for defending the motherland.”
The PLA spokesperson referred to the campaign highlighting a message to promote what he called the “Karakoram spirit”, that was “characterised by devotion to border defence, hard work, selfless dedication and tenacity”.
The LAC tensions, which began in late April and early May 2020, culminated in a clash on June 15, 2020 in the Galwan Valley, which marked the worst violence along the border since 1967. Both sides have since disengaged in Galwan Valley and on the north and south banks of Pangong Lake, but talks have remained stalled in other areas, including Depsang, Demchok, Gogra and Hot Springs. Indian officials have said the disengagement process remains partially completed and the de-induction process of troops, a key measure to restore normalcy, is yet to take place more than a year after the tensions began.