If it's late summer on campus, it must be...military training time. Just before fall semester begins at Chinese universities, the incoming freshmen show up two weeks early for required training with the People's Liberation Army. There are a number of reasons for this. The PLA was the victorious army in China's revolution against the national army in 1948. So the PLA still calls a lot of shots here. The training also reinforces a nationalistic indoctrination that begins in the earliest grades of school. Looked at objectively, the training is a bit silly. It's two weeks of close-order marching and some shooting. But these kids will never be in the military. The very fact that they've gotten admitted to a university means they will never have to serve in the PLA. (The PLA is all voluntary, but most recruits join as an escape from poverty.)

Yesterday I heard the shouting of mass voices near my hotel room on campus. I strolled out to one of the main streets on campus and saw that a dozen or so "platoons" were being drilled on how to march, count off, stand at ease and about anything else you'd need to know in this man's (0r woman's) army. After I'd snapped a few photos, one of the students suddenly appeared in front of me. I think his group was on a little break from the training. He stood very close to my face and said, quite politely, "Excuse me, this is a secret drill. Please don't take any pictures." I bit my lip to stop from making the futile observation that they were standing in the middle of campus with hundreds of people walking by. But I swear with my last dying breath that I'm going to deliver the secret of bad marching in place to the Pentagon.
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Swing them arms, boys! And lift those knees!
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