Chen Xiangrong: A martyr or another of CCP’s propaganda tactics
As the anti-COVID protest swept through China in Nov 2022, frustrations against the draconian Zero COVID policy as well as the Xi government also came to surface.
Many protestors expressed their anger, frustration and sadness against the constant tests, quarantines and lockdowns and want to hold the government accountable for the suffering and deaths caused by over zealous pandemic control policies in the last three years.
In order to soothe the sentiments of masses and divert their attention, the Chinese government has once again taken the route of nationalistic propaganda overits huge population.
On one hand, the government has decided to ease the curbs under its infamous Zero COVID policy while on the other hand, it is distributing panacea of patriotism through government owned media outlets as well as social media.
”At times like these, involving military heroes not only brings up the feeling of love for the country and die-hard nationalism but also pacifies any chance of dissent in a Chinese common man.
One of those stories revolve around Chen Xiangrong, a 19 year old soldier who died in the battle that took place in Galwan valley. The deadly clash that took place on June 15th saw many causalities on both Indian and Chinese sides.
While the Indian side has reported martyrdom of 20 of its soldiers,China initially admitted to only 4 – Chen Hongjun, Xiao Siyuan, Wang Zhuoranand Chen Xiangrong.
Two years after the clash, Chinese state media has time and again used the event toevoke emotions of patriotism in the hearts of its citizen. Various legends and stories glorifying Chen Xiangrong and his comrades have been propagated through social media and news articles. Published by People’s Daily online is one such story.
“At the battlegroundwhere Chen Hongjun and other soldiers died, soldier Chen Xiangrong was lying next to Chen Hongjun's body, maintaining a posture of protecting his battalion commander.”
Such stories can be seen as a desperate attempt by the Chinese authorities to create new military heroes for the new generation, who has not seen a full-fledged war in the last few decades.
According to an article published by Chinese media outlet Global Times on Nov. 4th, 2022, the Central Military Commission also conferred the title of ‘Border-defending Hero’ to Chen Hongjun while Chen Xiangrong and the others received first-class merit.
These soldiers have also been nominated China’s National ethical role models.
The same article also states that “Along theG219 highway, 11 bridges are now named after the martyrs and their hometowns including Xiangrong bridge, Siyuan bridge, Zhuoran bridge and Hongjun bridge,as some pictures circulating online showed.
“Italso said that “Xiangrong reminds Chinese people of Chen Xiangrong, another martyr who sacrificed his life in the border standoff with India, whose touching words ‘pure love, only for the country’ are still remembered by many people.”
The Chinese premiere Xi Jinping has also quoted the young soldier in his speechon 10th May 2022.
In order to evoke heart-warming sentiments in Chinese nationals, the government has also been circulating emotionally stirring news and videos about these soldiers on social media platforms.
Published in Min.news, one of these stories is about Chen Xiangrong’s mother who asked "My son is a hero who defends his home and country. I don't have any demands. I just want to know whether he is brave or not when he fights?" when the officials visited her after his passing.He is survived by his mother and sister Chen Qiaochai, who has followed in her younger brother’s footsteps and joined the army on a civilian post.
The article also reported that “In June of this year, the second year after ChenXiangrong died, a bronze statue of Chen Xiangrong was sent to his hometown.
His spirit was condensed into a heavy bronze statue—one heart for the country, and the whole body was clear.”Tombsof Xiangrong and other soldiers have been erected in Kangwaxi Martyrs cemeteryin Karakoram Mountains.
In addition to this, other belongings of the martyrssuch as Xiangrong’s unfinished letter to his mother and Hongjun’s diary wherehe wrote down his daily missions have been placed in Chinese Military Museum inBeijing.
Therecent PLA aggression in Tawang sector on Dec 9, 2022 could be viewed asanother accompaniment served by the Chinese authority to appease the citizens’patriotic nerve.
While their troops have blatantly disregarded the 1993,1996and 2013 agreements, the spokesperson of PLA’s Western Theatre Command has called it ‘an illegal trespassing of Indian troops’.
As the war of words continues, the Chinese have stuck to the narrative of vilifying India and projecting its own soldiers as ‘heroes who have stood up to the challenge whenChina was facing danger.’
But these cards of patriotism to galvanize progovernment sentiments have worked well in their favor and received no opposition from any strata of Chinese society, netizens and academicians.
Image: File image by Zhizhou Deng on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons/Pixabay