With east China’s infernal temperatures flatlining and the equinox now less than a month away, incoming first-years at a middle school in Hangzhou endured a grueling boot camp last week that drew comparisons to the summer blockbuster “Wolf Warrior 2.” The six-day “orientation,” meant to prepare students for “independent life,” subjected the Baimahu School’s newest litter to military tests of will that had some pups collapsing from exhaustion.
Uniformed in head-to-toe camouflage, the preteens were photographed marching with logs balanced on their shoulders, lifting hefty tires and scaling four-meter-high walls. In one activity named after a Chinese idiom translated as “unity of will is an impregnable stronghold,” groups of fifteen students stood wedged together atop square-meter platforms for extended periods of time.
The runaway favorite among students, according to the supervising instructor, Shiyan, was a task in which they were hosed continuously at ten minute intervals by high-pressure water cannons. “Many of them,” he told The Paper, “wished it had lasted longer,” describing a scene in which his drenched charges belted out Hong Kong megastar Wakin Chau’s 1997 ballad “Friends.”
The camp’s name bears resemblance to “Wolf Warrior,” a series of war films lionizing the Chinese military, the second installment of which just became the first non-Hollywood flick to crack the world’s 100 highest grossing movies of all-time, displacing Forrest Gump. Shiyan claimed this was pure coincidence and said the school has now been running the camp for three years.
Nonetheless, images of gun-toting eleven- and twelve-year-olds outfitted in full military regalia at back-to-school orientation cannot be extricated from the context of resurgent patriotism that underlies the rabid popularity of Wolf Warrior 2. Amid escalating tensions along the border with India and in the South China Sea, President Xi presided over a lavish parade earlier this summer showcasing China’s military might out in the sands of Inner Mongolia. The country’s 2020 defense budget is poised to eclipse 2016 spending by 60%.
Zhouhong, headmaster of the Baimahu School, considers the program a means of thickening the skin of his students before they enter the real world. “Nowadays so many children are like China dolls,” he said. “In reality, they will face all kinds of competition. The idea is for our boys to grow into real men and our girls to be a match for them. The more our children are tested, the more able to endure the tests they will become.”
By H.A. Platt
[Images via CGTN]
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